Are you in search of an easy side dish to beat that Summer heat? Look no further, I have got you covered with this Panzanella Toscana! Garden fresh Summer tomatoes, crunchy peppers, fresh herbs, crusty ciabatta, and a tangy vinaigrette. This is also one of the easiest salads you’ll ever make. What’s not to love?
Italian Summer Salad
You know those blistering hot Summer days where you can’t even imagine cooking? This is the dish you want. Yes, you do have to turn on the oven to toast the bread (unless you’ve got some stale bread laying around) but only at 200 degrees, and at that temp it will not heat up your kitchen, I promise.
When the Summer tomatoes start making their appearance at the markets and honesty stands nearby, you’d better believe I’ll be making a classic Panzanella salad. Everything about this just screams Summer, from the salted tomatoes and crunchy sweet peppers to the tangy dressing.
Few things are tastier than a freshly picked tomato. This recipe is one of the best ways to capitalize on their flavor.
One thing I really love about Panzanella is that because it is so bread centric, my kids actually love it because whenever I serve a typical green salad, all they want is the croutons anyway. So with this dish, they get their bread fix!
What Is Panzanella Toscana?
This Italian bread salad originated in the Tuscany region of Italy, and it is a great way to use up stale bread. I imagine this was exactly the reason a salad like this was invented. Waste not want not, am I right?
Panzanella Toscana is made up of tomatoes, stale bread, basil, onion, and sometimes peppers are added as well. This salad is really more about the bread than the vegetables, because this is actually a bread salad.
What Does Panzanella Mean In Italian?
The word Panzanella is thought to be a combination of two words: Pane, which is the Italian word for bread, and Zanella, the word for a soup tureen.
Ingredients For Panzanella Toscana
Tomatoes- You can use most any variety of tomato for this recipe. I happen to prefer cherry tomatoes, but if you are looking for another good option I recommend heirloom tomatoes if you can find some.
Bell Peppers- I love using yellow or orange peppers for an extra pop of color, but you can certainly use red or green if you like.
Ciabatta- Buy the best ciabatta you can find. Two square ciabatta rolls that you would use to make a sandwich cut into cubes is all you need for this salad.
Salt and Pepper- You will want to salt the tomatoes first thing (more on that further down in the post), and of course salt and pepper for the vinaigrette.
Olive Oil- This is the basis of the dressing for the salad. Try to use a good quality one if you can.
Honey- Not only does honey act as the emulsifier in the vinaigrette, but it adds a very subtle sweetness to counteract the red wine vinegar.
Red Wine Vinegar- I love red wine vinegar for this salad, it is perfect with the tomatoes. If you don’t have any red wine vinegar, you can try substituting white wine vinegar.
Fresh Oregano- This adds a lovely layer of flavor to the vinaigrette. You don’t need much, but it really does add something nice.
Fresh Basil- I love the flavor of fresh basil, and you can use more or less than what is in the recipe card, but don’t skip it! I recommend Genovese Basil for this recipe. If you have extra, try making some Strawberry Basil Lemonade or Pesto di Basilico!
I did not include onion in this recipe, but if you would like to add onion feel free! You should only need about half a cup of diced onion. I would recommend red onion or shallot, they both have a milder flavor than yellow or white onion.
How To Make Panzanella Toscana
- Cut and salt the tomatoes.
- Cube the ciabatta and toast it.
- Chop the bell peppers.
- Make the vinaigrette.
- Tear the basil leaves.
- Toss the salad ingredients together.
- Add the vinaigrette and serve.
There are a few different ways to approach the bread here. I do not recommend oiling and seasoning it the way you would for croutons. Not only will that not make this an authentic Italian panzanella salad recipe, but it will actually keep the bread from soaking up all the flavors.
Instead, you can use ciabatta that is already stale, or you can place it in a cool oven for enough time to dry it out and give it a light toasting (more on that in the recipe instructions).
Salting The Tomatoes Intensifies Flavor In Panzanella
Do not skip this step! Here is what salting the tomatoes will do:
- It will draw juices out of the tomatoes, which taste great with the ciabatta.
- The tomatoes themselves will have more flavor. Tomatoes love salt!
- This step will add flavor to the whole salad overall, not just the tomatoes.
It is important that salting your tomatoes is the first thing you do, because while you create the rest of the salad, the tomatoes sit in the salt and have the time they need to work their magic. If you are prepping most of the salad components in advance and you are not letting the tomatoes sit as the bread toasts and you are chopping peppers, then simply let the tomatoes sit for about 15 minutes, then assemble the salad with your prepped in advance ingredients.
Assemble Your Tuscan Panzanella
This Panzanella salad recipe is about as easy as it gets! It is really not much more than chopping ingredients, toasting the ciabatta a little, making the vinaigrette and tossing it all together. Here are a couple of additional tips:
- I like to assemble this in the same bowl that the salted tomatoes have been sitting in. Not only does it avoid dirtying extra dishes, but all that yummy salty tomato juice becomes part of the salad.
- I prefer to toss the salad ingredients together before adding the vinaigrette. This way the tomato juice works itself in, and then adding the dressing and tossing again means extra flavor.
Vinaigrette For Panzanella
This easy dressing really brings out other flavor notes in this salad. It is very easy to make, just toss all your vinaigrette ingredients into a bowl or tall plastic cup and use an immersion blender until smooth. That’s it!
Time Saving Prep Ahead Steps For Panzanella Toscana
There are a few ways you can approach this that will save you time, so that all you need to do is enjoy this salad when you are ready!
- The ciabatta can be toasted ahead, and placed in a gallon freezer bag until ready to use. You can do this step a day or two in advance.
- The vinaigrette may also be made ahead a day or two, which is nice because the flavors have more of a chance to develop.
- You can also chop the peppers ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator in a plastic container with a lid or a gallon freezer bag.
What To Serve With Panzanella
Wondering what to eat with panzanella? It is great with all kinds of dishes. I love this with pesto butter salmon, or garlic scape ravioli. This is a great side for picnics and barbeques. It is fabulous with chicken, burgers, fish, or sandwiches. It is even a nice light dinner all by itself on a hot evening!
Here are some other great ideas to serve alongside:
I hope you love this Panzanella, and if you made this recipe I’d love to know how it turned out for you, just leave a rating or comment.
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Panzanella Toscana is an easy recipe that is a great way to use leftover bread and garden fresh tomatoes! This salad goes well with most any main dish, and makes a great no cook dinner!
For The Panzanella
- 1 pint of Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 large Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper, cut into one inch pieces
- 2 Ciabatta Sandwich Rolls, cut into one inch cubes
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 6-8 large torn Basil Leaves
For The Vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 tsp Honey
- 1 Tbsp fresh Oregano
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
- Turn the oven on to 200 degrees.
- While the oven heats, cut each cherry tomato in half.
- Place the halved cherry tomatoes in a large bowl and add 2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Allow the salt to work its magic on the tomatoes as you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Cut the ciabatta rolls into half inch cubes and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the ciabatta feels stale and dry to the touch. It may or may not be lightly toasted. If its not, that's fine.
- While the bread bakes, chop the bell pepper into one inch pieces and set aside.
- Next, make the vinaigrette. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil, 2 Tbsp+ 2tsp of red wine vinegar, 2 tsp of honey, 1 Tbsp of fresh Oregano, 1/4 tsp of salt, and 1/8 tsp of black pepper to a tall glass, large canning jar, or bowl.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the ingredients until combined.
- Remove the bread from the oven once it is dried out, and while it cools for a moment, add the peppers to the bowl of tomatoes and stir.
- Tear the basil leaves with your hands and set aside.
- Add the bread to the tomato mixture and stir.
- Next, pour the vinaigrette over the top and keep stirring until the vinaigrette is well incorporated.
- Lastly, add the torn basil leaves, stir, and serve!
If you don't have an immersion blender, a standard blender will do just fine.
While this recipe does not call for onion, a 1/2 cup of chopped shallot or red onion would work well here should you choose to add it.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 154Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 976mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 2g
All information presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian and any nutritional information should only be used as a general guideline. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is provided for recipes contained on this site. This information comes from online calculators. Although The Copper Table attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.