It's finally summer! That means that the farmer's markets and gardens are full of the ingredients for this classic Tuscan dish - tomato bread salad.
This is one of my go-to recipes for summer events and picnics. In fact, we have a family reunion this weekend and I am making Panzanella for the picnic. This dish is a tradition in Tuscany and other parts of Italy, and is a great way to use stale bread along with fresh tomatoes that are plentiful in the area.
I love to use colorful heirloom tomatoes that are available in the summer. They add an artful twist of colors to this salad.
Add in your favorite things like red onions and cucumbers and you'll have a beautiful addition to any summer celebration. I have also made this with the addition of tiny mozzarella balls and it's delicious!
The salad comes together with your best extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar (I love the fig-infused version). Top it with fresh cut basil and dig in to a beautiful summer salad. Your kitchen will be filled with the fresh aromas of fresh tomatoes and basil for hours.
Enjoy the summer everyone! I'd love to hear how you enjoy this recipe and if you have variations that you love. Please comment or share.
4-5 slices of stale bread (any kind is fine)
3-4 medium tomatoes
Optional (1/2 small red onion, 1 cucumber sliced)
½ cup white balsamic vinegar (I love fig-infused white balsamic for this recipe)
3/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin)
½ tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)
¼ tsp. black pepper
5-6 leaves fresh basil
Optional (10-12 fresh mozzarella balls - small pearl type, called Ciliegine)
Cut the stale bread into small cubes (like croutons). Place the bread into a medium-sized sauté pan, drizzle with olive oil and heat over medium heat until the bread is browned and toasted. You can also toast the bread cubes in the oven on a baking sheet. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Set the bread aside and let cool.
Dice the tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers and place into a medium bowl. Add the salt, black pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and stir well. Cut or tear the basil into small pieces and add to the tomatoes. Place bowl in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Just prior to serving, add the bread cubes to the tomatoes and mix well. Cut the fresh mozzarella into halves or fourths and sprinkle over the top of the salad. Feel free to add more olive oil or balsamic vinegar if the mixture seems dry. The bread will soak up the liquid quickly. Spoon into small bowls and enjoy. Serves 6 to 8 people.
Recipe note: The fig-infused balsamic vinegar I like for this is made by Alessi. It can be found near the other vinegars in the grocery store. Experiment with other vinegar flavors if you like. The mozzarella balls (ciliegine) are usually found in the specialty cheese section packaged with water in a plastic container or shrink-wrapped to keep them fresh. If you can’t find these, simply cut 4 ounces of fresh mozzarella into small bite-sized cubes.