Panzanella Toscana is a traditional Italian salad originally from the region of Tuscany. It is a rustic dish that makes use of stale bread, ripe tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and basil, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.
The key ingredient in Panzanella Toscana is the bread. Traditionally, Tuscan bread is used, which is unsalted and has a dense texture this bread is called pane sciocco or pane sciapo which means “silly bread”.
The bread is typically soaked in water or lightly moistened to soften it. Once softened, it is crumbled and combined with the other ingredients.
Panzanella Toscana is often served in the summertime when tomatoes are at their peak ripeness. It is a delightful way to use up leftover bread and create a satisfying and refreshing salad that showcases the simplicity and quality of the ingredients found in traditional Tuscan cuisine.
- BREAD: Unsalted Tuscan bread is the first choice when it comes to panzanella, but unless you live in central Italy, you can go with any type of artisan crusty bread. Do not use soft breads like sandwich bread or dinner rolls as they get too mushy when soaked.
- TOMATOES: The ripe tomatoes are an essential component of Panzanella Toscana. They add a juicy and refreshing element to the salad.
- ONIONS: Sliced onions are included for their crisp texture and additional flavor. I like to use red onions for a pop of color, but white or yellow onions work fine too.
- CUCUMBERS: Adds a nice crunchy texture to this panzanella salad, not to mention the freshness. There’s no right or wrong way to cut them, you can do so in cubes, half-moons, or slices.
- BASIL: Added to provide a fragrant herbal note. For the best aroma and flavor, gently tear it with your hands and add it to the salad.
- DRESSING: To dress the salad, extra-virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar are commonly used. The olive oil adds richness and a fruity taste, while the vinegar provides acidity and tanginess. Salt and pepper (and sometimes garlic) are usually added to taste, enhancing the overall flavors.
Remember, Panzanella Toscana is a flexible recipe, so feel free to adjust the quantities and ingredients according to your preferences.
How To Make Panzanella Toscana
Add vinegar and water into a large mixing bowl. Mix well to combine.
Cut bread into thick slices then into cubes. I like cutting it into small pieces so it will soak faster.
Add bread into the bowl with vinegar mixture and use a spoon to help it immerse it well so it can soak while you’re preparing the veggies.
Now, cut tomatoes into halves or quarters if you using cherry tomatoes, or into chunks or cubes if you’re using regular tomatoes.
Slice the onions and cucumbers and place everything in a separate mixing bowl along with the tomatoes.
Use your hands to drain and gently squeeze the bread and remove excess moisture.
As you do it, crumble the bread into the bowl with the vegetables.
Season with salt and pepper, then add a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and lots of fresh basil.
Mix well to combine everything into a fresh, delicious, and flavorful salad.
Cover the bowl and allow panzanella toscana to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- If you using fresh bread, I suggest slicing it and leaving it on the countertop covered with a kitchen towel overnight, so it will stale and be ready the next day, or you can pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes to toast it a little bit.
- For the dressing, use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Whisk them together with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let the salad sit for about 20-30 minutes before serving, allowing the flavors to develop and the bread to fully absorb the dressing.
- Panzanella Toscana is best served chilled or at room temperature. It allows the flavors to meld together and enhances the refreshing qualities of the salad.
Even in Italy, there are some variations of Panzanella. Those below are the most popular:
- Mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella cubes are a fresh and delicious addition to this summer salad. We suggest adding it just before serving. Burrata is another soft cheese that you can add.
- Canned tuna. Another favorite variation, you can use olive oil canned tuna or water packed for a healthier version.
- Anchovies & capers. This addition is very popular in central and southern Italy. It gives a nice sea-like touch.
- Hard-cheese. Parmigiano, or other types of hard cheeses such as Pecorino, Asiago, etc.
How To Store Panzanella Salad
Panzanella Toscana can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Place the salad in an airtight container to keep it fresh.
Remember that Panzanella is at its best when enjoyed shortly after preparation. Storing it for too long may result in a loss of texture and flavor. It’s recommended to make this Tuscan salad in quantities that can be consumed within a day or two for optimal taste and texture.
Just before serving leftover Panzanella Toscana, you can freshen it up by adding a drizzle of olive oil. Toss gently to redistribute the flavors and restore some of the freshness.
What does panzanella mean in Italian?
Panzanella comes from the words “pane e zanella”. Pane means “bread” in Italian and zanella is the name of a tuscan soup plate that is often used to prepare this salad.
Panzanella is also known as panmolle, pansanella, panmòllo, or pane ‘nzuppo throughout various central regions in Italy.
How do you eat panzanella?
Panzanella is typically enjoyed as a main dish or a side dish, particularly during the warm summer months. To eat it, just place on a plate and use a fork to scoop it up.
What can you eat with panzanella?
Panzanella can be served as a side dish alongside grilled meats such as chicken, steak, or pork chops. The freshness of the salad complements the smoky flavors of the grilled meat.
This Italian bread salad can be part of an antipasto platter too. Serve it alongside cured meats like prosciutto, salami, and mortadella, as well as a variety of cheeses, marinated vegetables, olives, and bruschetta.
More Italian Salad Recipes
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- 8 oz stale crusty artisan bread (cut into cubes)
- 1 lb cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters)
- 1 medium red onion (sliced)
- 1 large cucumber (peeled and sliced)
- 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil (as needed)
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- Mix vinegar with 1 ½ cups of water in a bowl.
- Add bread into the bowl and immerse it well so it can nicely soak. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- Place tomatoes, onion, and cucumber into a large mixing bowl.
- Drain and squeeze the bread to remove excess of moisture, and then crumble it into the bowl with the vegetables.
- Season with salt and pepper, then add a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and lots of hand-torn basil.
- Mix well to combine everything. Cover and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- If you using fresh bread, I suggest slicing it and leaving it on the countertop covered with a kitchen towel overnight, so it will stale and be ready the next day. Or you can pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes to dry it a bit.
- Allow panzanella salad to rest overnight, the flavors will infuse bread resulting in a more flavored dish.
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