A traditional Italian bread salad (Panzanella) gets a summer lift with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and a simple red wine vinaigrette. Top with fresh basil for a light and delicious Italian dinner.
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Growing up, you couldn’t pay me enough money to eat a tomato; it was just never going to happen. I image it was a texture thing with the pop and gush when biting into a tomato. And the taste. I was never a huge fan of the taste of tomatoes. Even with a sprinkle of salt, no thank you!
Then I was introduced to heirloom tomatoes, these changed the ball game for me. Huge and plump fruits from the vine, they have a sweeter flavor, thinner skins, and a gorgeous outward appearance. Grown during the summer months, these beauties really are some of the best vegetables harvested in hot weather. They’re juicy and super delicious. Perfect for an Italian bread salad, or Panzanella.
What is Panzanella
Panzanella is an Italian bread salad. It’s usually made with day-old crusty bread and tossed with a great vinaigrette. Typically seen in Panzanella salads are tomatoes, onions, basil, and cucumbers. Another great addition to the salad are peppers, which are quite abundant during the summer months.
How to Prepare a Panzanella Salad
Putting together this Heirloom Tomato Italian Bread Salad is super easy but here are a few tips to help you make this Panzanella salad recipe incredible!
Heirloom Tomatoes for Panzanella Salad
Now for the perfect heirloom tomatoes. You want a firm and plump tomato. Color doesn’t determine too much of the taste but it is fun to have yellows, greens, and purples going on throughout the salad.
When you purchase your heirloom tomatoes, it is important that you store them correctly to help them last longer. Always store tomatoes outside of the fridge. Cooling your tomatoes makes the meat mealy over time, messing with the texture. Also, place your tomatoes on a parchment lined sheet pan, upside down. This keeps the tomatoes from sitting in their gases that they inevitably produce over time.
I will usually cut out the top part of the tomato that attached to the vine and go from there with cutting up the tomato. Have fun with the different shapes as they will add character to your salads. Cut quarter wedges, slices, and even half moons. I typically eat this salad with a butter knife anyway, so I’m able to have bigger than bite-sized pieces of tomato in this salad.
Panzanella Salad Dressing
The unsung hero, I believe, of this salad, is simple but delicious red wine vinaigrette. There is something about pairing red wine vinegar with tomatoes that just makes sense. Don’t worry about having a super-emulsified vinaigrette; this is a rustic dish and it totally makes sense to have a “broken” dressing.
Since this vinaigrette is sweetened with honey, it makes this Panzanella salad non-vegan-friendly. However, if you have any vegan-friendly sweeteners that you like to use, feel free to substitute the honey out and enjoy a vegan salad.
How to Make Italian Bread Salad
So how do we construct a perfect Panzanella salad? It’s all a matter of knowing how to pick the perfect ingredients! As stated above, a typical Panzanella salad recipe includes
- Crusty bread
- Olive Oil
In this Heirloom Italian Bread Salad, I use two types of tomatoes (cherry and heirlooms) and make a delicious red wine vinaigrette to tie this salad together.
I love using artisan breads for this salad because they stand up really well to the soaking in the vinaigrette without getting too soggy.
Other suitable breads would be a ciabatta, French loaf, or even sourdough bread. Basically, you want a good bread with a sturdy texture. I would then dry out my bread overnight and let it get stale. Some people even roast their bread in the oven, tossed in olive oil and seasoned, to give it more pizzazz.
Here are some tips for putting this salad together so that it can be enjoyed fully.
Cut all of your ingredients and marinate the vegetables with the vinaigrette in a bowl for a few hours at room temperature.
Cover the bowl of marinating veggies and let them all hang out. The tomato juices will start to leach out into the vinaigrette which will lead to a fuller taste to the dressing. Then at the last minute, before serving, toss in your stale bread and gently coat the bread with the vinaigrette so that the bread becomes slightly softened.
Bonus Tip! If you want this salad to have a more fine-dining, gourmet feel to it, plate only a fraction of the salad and highlight different shapes and cuts of veggies.
There you have it! The perfect Italian bread salad is full of amazing summer flavors like tomatoes, cucumbers and a killer red wine vinaigrette! Make this salad how you like it. I would definitely applaud the addition of sweet peppers, or even some mozzarella. Mmmmm delicious. I’m starting to get ideas for some new dishes just thinking about this!
Enjoy this awesome salad and if you have especially enjoyed it, feel free to leave a comment down below (with a rating)
What Goes with Panzanella
Panzanella salad is a perfect summer salad. Here are some Summer Recipes this would go well with:
- Moroccan Couscous Salad
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- Moroccan Honey BBQ Sauce
- Vegan Lemon and Herb Potato Salad
- Honey and Blood Orange Sorbet
- Basil and Orange Sorbet
- Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Ice Cream
- Watermelon Granita
- Baked Ratatouille Recipe
- Lemon Genoise Cake with Fresh Berries
- Lemon Mousse with Fresh Berries
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Red Wine Vinaigrette
- 1 each garlic clove, , minced
- 1 each shallot, , minced
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup olive oil
- To taste salt and pepper
- 2 cups stale bread, , large chunks
- 2 each heirloom tomatoes, , cut into various shapes
- ½ dry pint cherry tomatoes, , halved
- 1 each cucumber, , cut into medium sized pieces
- ½ each onion, , thinly sliced into half moons
- Basil for garnish
Red Wine Vinaigrette
- Combine ingredients, except oil, in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Slowly drizzle olive oil into bowl until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix vegetables in a large mixing bowl with red wine vinaigrette and let sit out at room temperature for a few hours for flavors to marinate.
- Add stale chunks of bread into salad and coat with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
Totally Bamboo 20-2083 Salt Box, 3-1/2-Inch round, Plain
Pyrex Glass Mixing Bowl Set (3-Piece)
Extra Large Organic Bamboo Cutting Board for Kitchen
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Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 8 p
Amount Per ServingCalories 368 Total Fat 28g Saturated Fat 4g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 23g Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 233mg Carbohydrates 28g Fiber 3g Sugar 15g Protein 4g