A traditional panzanella salad 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.
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 a panzanella salad.
A panzanella salad 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 into the salad are peppers, which are quite abundant during the summer months.
So how do we construct a perfect panzanella salad? It’s all a matter of knowing how to pick the perfect ingredients! You don’t have to make your own bread, but I did (of course)! I made a simple Hearth bread from The Bread Bible (super easy to follow and amazingly delicious). Other suitable breads would be a ciabatta loaf, French loaf or even a 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 pazzazz.
Now for the perfect heirloom tomatoes. You want a firm and plump tomato; not too firm, but not squishy. We don’t like squishy tomatoes. Color doesn’t determine too much of the taste but it is fun to have yellows, greens, and purples going on throughout the salad. 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.
The unsung hero, I believe, of this salad, is simple but delicious red wine vinaigrette. There is something about pairing red wine 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. If you have a store-bought vinaigrette that you just love and don’t want to make the one I’m including with the recipe, be my guest!
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. Never put tomatoes in the fridge; cool temperatures mess with the inside texture of the tomatoes and alters the taste. Cover the bowl of marinating veggies and let them all hang out. The tomato juices will start to leech 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.
There you have it! The perfect panzanella salad 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 let me know what other fun dishes you’d like to see me make for the summer!
- 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
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.