Transform leftover bread with juicy sweet tomatoes and a tangy vinaigrette into the best Panzanella salad. Our classic Italian tomato and bread salad recipe is super easy to make and a satisfying meal all in one.
- Why You’ll Love Our Classic Panzanella Salad
- What Is Panzanella?
- What Ingredients Goes In Panzanella?
- What Is The Best Bread For Panzanella?
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
- Great Mains for This Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love Our Classic Panzanella Salad
The ingredients might be simple but panzanella salad is surprisingly complex with a multitude of textures and contrasting flavours. Making it one of our best tomato salads.
Bursting with juicy ripe tomatoes, hearty toasted bread, zingy red onions, and aromatic basil tied together with a punchy garlicky salad dressing. It’s an authentic Italian panzanella salad recipe that I love making to share with friends during the warmer summer months.
Minimal cooking, refreshing flavours and the contrasting mouthfeel of each bite are so satisfying. I love how I sometimes find crispy, toasty bits against well dressed bread chunks and then zingy pops of tomato pieces.
This is a delicious hearty vegan salad recipe to make the most of summer tomato season and any leftover bread you have. A great addition to serve at lunch or dinner.
What Is Panzanella?
Classic Italian salad recipe, the term panzanella is a combination of two words “pane” (bread) and “zanella” (soup bowl). Literally this salad is bread in a soup bowl.
Panzanella originated in the Tuscan countryside where farmers would make the most of stale bread and mix it with seasonal vegetables.
This is another delicious classic Italian salad recipe like tomato caprese where simple, fresh ingredient combinations create an amazing meal.
What Ingredients Goes In Panzanella?
The current version of the classic recipe we now know of panzanella would typically include ripe tomatoes, bread, onions, basil, extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Origins of the panzanella recipe suggest that the salad was based around stale bread and onions, not tomatoes, as tomatoes did not arrive in Italy until the 16th century.
However, like most classic salad recipes, people like to create their own twists, which has seen a number of different ingredients added, such as cucumber, olives, lettuce, capers, anchovies, and bocconcini. I’ve also made a watermelon panzanella version which is also super refreshing in summer.
A popular version is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa panzanella tomato and bread salad recipe will include cucumbers, bell peppers and capers as well the traditional staples of tomatoes, bread and red onion.
What Is The Best Bread For Panzanella?
As much as this is a tomato salad, Panzanella is very much a bread salad. Therefore it is important to get the right kind of bread for the salad recipe.
Similar to Goldilocks and her porridge, you want to have the density of the bread “just right”; otherwise it will be too soggy or too hard.
The original panzanella recipe calls for stale bread soaked in water or dressing to soften the texture. However, most recipes now recommend toasting the bread and then letting it soak in the dressing.
I prefer the same way as well; toasting the bread yields better results. This will soften the texture of the bread but not so much that it is too mushy to eat.
I would typically go for leftover pane di casa or ciabatta. An airy sourdough would work too. They would hold up after toasting and have a good chewy texture.
Standard white loaves or baguettes are too light for a panzanella recipe. They would collapse and become too soggy when mixed into the tomato juice salad dressing.
Flavour/Texture: What I love the most about the flavours of panzanella is the toasted bread soaking up the sweet tomato juices and tangy red wine vinegar. Plus the added red onions and aromatic basil, the salad is jam packed with flavour.
There is a multitude of contrasting textures going on in a panzanella salad as well. Soft, crunchy and crispy. Every bite will surprise you.
Ease: Very simple recipe to follow. The only cooking part of this tomato and bread salad recipe is toasting the bread. I used my oven for it, but it can also be done on a stovetop or even in an air fryer.
Time: You can easily whip this salad up in less than half an hour. Toast the bread whilst you prep the other salad ingredients.
These are the ingredients you need for panzanella salad:
Tomatoes: I have chosen a mix of tomatoes including heirloom, roma and cherry tomatoes for my panzanella salad. I love the different colours and shapes in the bowl. It adds so much more interest to the eyes and tummy.
Bread: This time, I used a leftover pane di casa loaf I bought 2 days ago. I have also used whole grain or even rye sourdough before as well. I love the earthy flavours of rye bread.
Basil: Fresh basil leaves add not only colour but aromatic flavours. Tomatoes and basil truly make this a summer salad recipe.
Red onion: I love the extra sharpness red onion adds to the sweetness of tomatoes.
Garlic: Minced garlic adds a little extra oomph to the panzanella dressing.
Dijon mustard: One of the most versatile mustards in salad dressings, I love adding Dijon mustard for extra zing. It also helps emulsify the dressing a little and allows it to coat the ingredients better.
Red wine vinegar: A pantry staple, good quality red wine vinegar for a tart and intense flavour.
Variations and Substitutions
Different varieties of tomatoes: Large chunks of ripe tomatoes are perfect for panzanella. You can choose whichever variety you like or are in season. Make sure they are fresh, plump and ripe.
Other herbs: If you don’t have fresh basil available, I would just leave it out.
Red wine vinegar substitution: I like the sharpness of red wine vinegar. Otherwise, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar or cider vinegar would work too.
Step by step instructions for how to make panzanella salad:
How to Toast the Bread
Preheat oven to 200°C or 400°F.
Roughly chop/tear chunks of bread into 2-3 cm cubes.
In a large mixing bowl, drizzle bread cubes with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Once done, remove from the oven to cool down.
How to Prepare Rest of Salad
Cut tomatoes into large chunks.
Place tomatoes into a colander and season with salt.
Place a bowl under colander and let tomatoes sit for about 10-15 minutes.
Collect the tomato juice in the bowl under colander and save for panzanella salad dressing.
Cut red onion in half and thinly slice into half moons.
Wash and roughly tear basil leaves.
How to Make Panzanella Salad Dressing
In a mixing bowl, add leftover tomato juice, extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper.
Mix well until combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a large mixing bowl, add all salad ingredients and drizzle dressing.
Toss together and let the salad mingle with dressing for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Toast the bread: This step is not traditional but one step I would not skip now. Toasting the bread before assembly stops it from turning into a pile of soggy mush.
Salt the tomatoes: This is an important step to help draw out the juice from the tomatoes but also add extra flavour.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with panzanella salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
For a truly Italian feast, here are some fabulous dishes you can serve up with our panzanella salad. Use up the rest of the mozzarella in this chorizo gnocchi, or if you want to impress the kids, make these giant meatballs!
For some Italian comfort food, you can’t go past this pollo alla cacciatora (chicken cacciatore) recipe. Make sure you have fresh bread on the side too.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can prep the panzanella salad ingredients in advance but best to assemble when ready to eat in less than an hour. As much as I like to have the toasted bread soaking up the delicious juices of tomato chunks and salad dressing, I don’t want a pile of mush before eating.
Panzanella is best to eat fresh. The bread will not store well in the dressing.
Nothing screams summer salad more than a classic panzanella salad. Juicy ripe tomatoes mixed in with basil leaves with added toasted crunchy bread plus a zingy red wine dressing.
Simple but packed with unbelievable flavour, panzanella is a classic tomato and bread salad recipe that we should be making all summer long.
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Panzanella (Tomato and Bread Salad Recipe)
- 3 cups bread, torn/chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
- 600 g tomatoes
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ red onion
- ½ cup basil, leaves
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Preheat oven to 200°C or 400°F.
- Roughly chop/tear chunks of bread into 2-3 cm cubes. In a large mixing bowl, drizzle bread with extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Once done, remove from the oven to cool down.
- Cut tomatoes into large chunks. Place tomatoes into a colander and season with salt.Place a bowl under colander and let tomatoes sit for about 10-15 minutes.Collect the tomato juice in the bowl under colander and save for panzanella salad dressing.
- Cut red onion in half and thinly slice into half moons.
- Wash and roughly tear basil leaves.
- In a mixing bowl, add leftover tomato juice, extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix well until combined.
- In a large bowl, add all salad ingredients and drizzle dressing.
- Toss together and let the salad mingle with dressing for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Toasting the bread before assembly stops it from turning into a pile of soggy mush.
- Salting the tomatoes is an important step to help draw out juice from the tomatoes but also add extra flavour.
- You can choose whichever variety of tomatoes you like or are in season. Make sure they are fresh, plump and ripe.
- If you don’t have fresh basil available, I would just leave it out.
- If you don’t have red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar, or cider vinegar would work too.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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