Panzanella Salad features juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, red onion, capers, and lightly toasted Italian bread ready to sop up a delicious tangy dressing!
On sizzling days when I don’t want to make a big production of dinner, I love enjoying a big bowl of this tomato salad. When I serve it as a side dish, it’s usually with either Caprese Stuffed Chicken or Tomato Basil Chicken Soup. It makes for a quick and easy meal!
Table of contents
Panzanella with a Simple Vinaigrette
This classic Panzanella is a salad that celebrates the simple fresh ingredients and bold flavors that Italian food is famous for. If you’re lucky enough to grow your own tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil, this recipe is a great opportunity to showcase them! It’s a quick and hearty summer salad you can throw together for a light lunch or a starter when serving guests. It also looks so pretty on the table!
This salad is showcased with crusty bread cut into little bits of toasted, crispy goodness by baking them until slightly browned, kind of like big homemade croutons! Day-old bread or even stale bread works fabulous! You’ll still get the flavor of the vinaigrette absorbed plus you’ll add to the texture of each bite.
Whether you’re enjoying lunch at your desk, or a leisurely dinner outdoors, this salad features all the juicy, crunchy, zesty flavors of the traditional Tuscan recipe with a few added greens!
Why this recipe works
- Quick and easy and comes together in 15 minutes including the dried bread process!
- Beautiful colors make this a showstopper!
- Fresh ingredients whether from your own backyard or the market.
- Uses leftover bread which makes it a great way to reduce waste.
- Can customize it any way you’d like.
- A great Italian recipe like this Italian pasta salad another recipe we love.
FOR THE SALAD DRESSING
- Extra virgin olive oil – Used to blend the ingredients into a cohesive dressing.
- Dijon mustard – A stronger mustard than regular yellow mustard. Makes it nice and tangy.
- Lemon juice – Freshly squeezed.
- Garlic – Minced.
- Italian seasoning – A blend of dried herbs that brings so much flavor.
- Salt – Brings everything together and allows the other ingredients to shine.
FOR THE SALAD
- Hearty Italian bread – You can also use Ciabatta or French bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- Olive oil – Used to drizzle the bread before toasting.
- Arugula – Watercress is also a great option. For a more traditional salad, you can leave leafy greens out completely.
- Cherry tomatoes – Cut them in half, it makes for an easier bite of your salad.
- English cucumber – Sliced. No need to remove the skin, that part is up to you.
- Red onion – Thinly sliced raw onions. They have a very subtle flavor and a nice crunch.
- Basil leaves – Fresh basil is best, sliced to as thick or as thin as you’d like.
- Capers – This is an optional ingredient that adds a lovely salty component much like what olives do.
How to Make this Recipe
This recipe will come together in just a few simple steps in as little as 15 minutes.
Step 1: Make the vinaigrette by combining ingredients into a bowl and whisking in olive oil until fully blended. Set aside.
Step 2: Bake bread cubes, drizzled with a bit of olive oil, in a preheated oven at 400 degrees until lightly golden brown and crispy. Allow cooling before adding to the salad.
Step 3: Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine well. The tomato juices blend so well with the bread!. Wait to add the dressing until just before serving.
Step 4: Drizzle dressing overtop the ingredients and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
1: Add chickpeas or shredded chicken for a little added protein.
2: Add cubes of fresh Mozzarella cheese or Romano cheese.
3. Add yellow, orange, or red bell peppers.
4: Use olives in place of the capers.
5.Use balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar in place of lemon juice.
- Use 2 large fresh large tomatoes like heirloom tomatoes, or grape tomatoes instead of the cherry tomatoes if preferred. Or a variation of the two as I do often.
- Don’t add the bread and vinaigrette to the salad until almost ready to serve or the bread with getting soggy.
- You’re not making croutons, so you still want a bit of a chewy center to your bread.
Panzanella salad is definitely hearty and filling on its own, but in smaller amounts, it is such a nice side dish. It works much the same way any salad would, especially since we’ve added leafy greens to ours. Chicken, steak, seafood, and even soups and stews would make great main dish ideas.
If you leave out the bread, this salad can be stored up to 2 days. If you’ve already added the bread pieces, I’d suggest trying to eat it all, because storing it will just make the bread soggy.
Essentially any day old bread will work, especially because you’re toasting it. The crustier and sturdier your bread is to begin with, the more flavorful liquid it can absorb without falling apart. Some good choices are Italian or French crusty bread, Ciabatta, or any baguette.
Italian Panzanella Salad
For the Vinaigrette
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the Salad
- 5 cups Italian bread cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups arugula or watercress
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 English cucumber sliced
- ½ small red onion sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons basil leaves sliced
- 1 tablespoon capers drained (optional)
For the Vinaigrette
- In a small bowl, add the mustard, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, garlic, and salt.
- Add the olive oil and continually whisk until mixed well.
- Set aside.
For the Salad
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
- Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil then toss to coat.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes (turning halfway through) or until the bread is crispy and lightly browned.
- Remove form oven and allow to cool before assembling the salad.
- In a large bowl, add the arugula, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, basil, and capers if using.
- Add the bread just before serving so it doesn’t absorb the dressing.
- Drizzle the vinaigrette over the entire salad and toss to combine well.
- Serve immediately.