If you ever need a moment to imagine yourself on a balcony in Italy in the summer, this salad might be just what you’re looking for! Panzanella is a Tuscan chopped salad of soaked stale bread, onions and tomatoes.
After you make your first panzanella, you will never look back. The simple method of toasting the bread to get it crispy enough to then soak up a vibrant vinaigrette results in so much flavor. This is a great dish to make when you are firing up the grill for fish or chicken, though you can also rely on a grill pan to develop some smoky flavor. As the seasons change throughout the year, I like customizing the panzanella to highlight what is freshest at the market. Consider roasting the vegetables or serving them raw in this salad, too. The end result is always colorful and so easy to put together.
Making a simple vinaigrette is a great back pocket kitchen skill. It’s so simple, it’s one part vinegar or other acid (like lemon juice), mixed with three parts oil. For example, you could use one tablespoon of red wine vinegar and three tablespoons of olive oil. Or you could make a big batch of dressing! For that, use 1/4 cup of vinegar mixed with 3/4 cups olive oil. While this is the standard ratio that I was taught in culinary school, I personally love more acidic vinaigrettes. So feel free to use this ratio as a base and adjust to your liking. For all my tips and tricks for making vinaigrettes, check out my how-to guide and video here!
1 loaf French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
½ cup olive oil
8 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into ⅓-inch dice
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and sliced into thirds on the bias
8 ounces cherry heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the cubed bread with enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat liberally, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the bread cubes in an even layer on one side of a large baking sheet. In the same mixing bowl, toss the diced peppers with some extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on the other side of the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the oven to bake until the bread is crispy and golden brown and the peppers have softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Keep an eye on it so the bread doesn’t burn!
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard and garlic. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Once the bread is toasted, combine the bread and peppers with the smoked mozzarella, snap peas and tomatoes (you can use the same bowl you tossed the bread and peppers in). Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and add the torn basil leaves. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to develop.
Looking for more simple weeknight recipes? Check out Recipe Club.