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I was introduced to this classic Italian salad a long time ago by one of my favorite customers from the cafe. He was gracious enough to share his recipe with me from his hometown in Italy! I added it to my menu as a special for one day, and it was a huge success! We even decided to run the tomato panzanella salad for the whole month.
My customer, Phill, gave me a little history lesson about the salad. He said in ancient Roman times, salad dressing was poured on bread, which produced sogginess. This is where the name Panzanella comes from, which means little swamp.
Since they have similar ingredients, some consider Panzanella a salad version of the popular appetizer, bruschetta. Panzanella salads combine bread in the form of sliced and toasted cubes. These croutons are then moistened with fresh tomatoes and flavored with basil, olive oil, and vinegar.
What is Panzanella?
Panzanella is a salad that originated in Tuscany, Italy. It is a refreshing summer dish, and it is made with dried pieces of bread, onions, cucumbers, and other vegetables. If you are a carb lover and your favorite part of a salad is the croutons, Panzanella will definitely become your next favorite dish.
Stale Bread vs. Dry Bread
The bread is the star of this dish, so it is important to get it right! This recipe calls for stale bread for the best results. Stale bread is soft and has less moisture than fresh bread but is not nearly as dry as toast. You can make stale bread by leaving it out on the counter for 1 to 2 days. It can either be left out loosely wrapped or unwrapped. If you don’t have time to make stale bread, you can also lightly dry out the bread by putting it in the oven. Place the bread in an oven at 300°F for about 15 minutes to remove the moisture. Make sure the bread doesn’t get toasted or start to brown.
Tips for the Best Tomato Panzanella Salad
- Be sure to salt the tomatoes once you cut them, so they have the right seasoning. Adding salt also enhances the tomato flavor.
- When selecting bread for Panzanella, choose a ciabatta or baguette. These European bread have more air bubbles and are light and fluffy compared to more dense, commercial bread.
- Once you assemble the Panzanella, let the ingredients combine by allowing the salad to sit for a few minutes. Once the dressing has time to set in, and the ingredients start to fuse with one another, the salad is ready to be eaten!
Whisk the salad dressing and set it aside.
Bake for about 7 minutes. Take them out. Rub the toasted bread with the garlic clove, cut them into smaller cubes, toss them with one teaspoon of dry thyme and salt, and bake again for another 7 minutes until golden brown. Set aside and let them cool.
In a big bowl, add the diced tomatoes, sliced onion, cucumber, and the fresh mozzarella. Toss with salad dressing, add the bread, followed by the chopped Italian parsley and basil. Toss again. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Keep in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving! Enjoy!
What To Serve with Panzanella?
Can You Store Panzanella?
|half loaf of day-old ciabatta or baguette stall bread (cut in the middle)|
|¼ cup olive oil|
|1 clove garlic|
|2 lbs ripened tomatoes. (I like to use cherry tomatoes, cut in half)|
|½ red onion (sliced thin)|
|2 English cucumbers (sliced)|
|½ cup fresh basil (roughly chopped)|
|¼ cup fresh Italian parsley (roughly chopped)|
|6 oz fresh mozzarella (cut into medium size bite)|
For the salad dressing:
|3 garlic cloves|
|3 tablespoons red wine vinegar|
|¼ cup olive oil|
|1 teaspoon dry thyme or oregano|
|1 teaspoon dijon mustard|
|Salt and pepper to taste|
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