Panzanella – Tuscan Bread Salad

Panzanella or panmolle is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that’s popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. It is also popular in other parts of central Italy.

History of Panzanella

The 16th-century artist and poet Bronzino sings the praises of onions with oil and vinegar served with toast and, a page later, speaks of a salad of onions, Purslane, and cucumbers. This is often interpreted as a description of panzanella.

Ingredients used in a Panzanella

Panzanella was based on onions, not tomatoes, until the 20th century.

Modern panzanella is generally made of stale bread soaked in water and squeezed dry, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Onions and basil are often added. Other ingredients — lettuce, olives, mozzarella, white wine, capers, anchovies, celery, carrots, red wine, red onion, cucumber, tuna, parsley, boiled eggs, mint, capsicum (bell peppers), lemon juice, and garlic — are sometimes used, but Florentine traditionalists disapprove of them.

Panzanella - Tuscan Bread Salad
Nothing goes to waste in an Italian kitchen so it makes sense that old bread would have it's uses. Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan salad made with stale bread (toasted or baked) soaking up the flavours of the dressing, and bursting with the fresh crunchy texture of tomato and basil.
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 day-old ciabatta loaf or baguette, cut into 3cm pieces or cubes
  • 300 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 5 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (or halved cherry tomatoes if desired)
  • 1 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow capsicum, roughly chopped {optional, mainly for colour)
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • ½ bunch fresh basil, or to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Bake the bread pieces in a warm oven until golden brown and dry. Set aside to cool. (or toast slices and cut after cooling)
  2. Place the oil, vinegar and garlic in a bowl, add the bread and toss together.
  3. Add the tomato, capsicum, and onion and tear in the basil leaves. Toss again (gently so as not to break up the tomato chunks).
  4. Season to taste and serve immediately.
The capsicums can be char-grilled and cooled before using, or left raw - it's up to the individual

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