Tuscan-Style Panzanella Salad

panzanella salad
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Our Tuscan-inspired Panzanella Salad is not an ordinary take-it-or-leave-it salad. It is vibrant with flavours of fresh vegetables, salty olives and tangy capers! It also makes use of some leftover bread that is going stale, which is perfect to soak up that olive oil-based dressing! If that’s not enough to tempt you, we also added some pearl mozzarella to make this Italian classic one of the most enjoyable salads to have on a warm weekend day!

There’re no two ways about it: Italians know how to eat. And whilst I admit (with regret) that I haven’t had much authentic Italian food (which I am hoping to rectify by travelling in Italy at some point), I am almost certain to LOVE anything that is served to me at a good Italian restaurant here in the UK.

Panzanella salad is no exception. Although I never had it made for me by an Italian chef, nor did I ever have it made for me by any chef, I absolutely love it when we make it at home. Years ago, I saw the salad on the menu at one of the gastropubs in Cheshire and I will be honest, it did not interest me one bit. After all, it’s a salad, I thought. It’s some fresh vegetables and some stale bread. But, was I wrong?! It’s all about the marriage of fresh cherry tomatoes and cucumber with tangy capers and salty olives! The croutons (did I call them stale bread a minute ago?) add texture and soak up all that dressing… What is more, soft and creamy mozzarella adds the creamy texture to the salad, making it all the more satisfying.

One tip: don’t leave your bread in the oven too long. You want it crispy on the outside but still soft in the middle. Hard crunchy croutons don’t soak up the dressing well and are generally less enjoyable in this salad.

What is Panzanella Salad?

Panzanella, also known as Panmolle, is a Tuscan creation. The name itself stems from two Italian words: pane (bread) and zanella (a deep plate or a bowl). Traditionally, this salad was made with red onion as the main vegetable (not cherry tomatoes, which are used in modern Panzanella recipes) and stale bread, soaked in water, then squeezed dry. I’ll be honest, I am happy that modern-day cooking has advanced this simple salad with the addition of all things lovely – variations of Panzanella may have cucumber, olives, capers, mint and basil, and even anchovies and boiled egg.

panzanella salad

Our version has a lot of the above. Mainly because we enjoy Panzanella as a main dish. It is light but perfectly satisfying for a quick weekend lunch. To get as close as possible to a Tuscan experience, make Panzanella on a warm summer day and have your lunch al fresco.

We Also Made a Vegan Version of Panzanella:

During one of our Veganuaries, we were simply craving a Panzanella Salad, but we knew that without some creamy cheese, it would not be the same. So we skipped the mozzarella and dotted some vegan cream cheese over the salad instead, it was utterly delicious!

How to Make the Best Panzanella Salad?

To start, get all of your ingredients ready. Thinly slice red onions and place them in a colander. We love Victorinox knives and have been using them for years. Slice the cucumber into thin half-circles and half the cherry tomatoes. Then thinly slice the black olives and roughly chop the basil. Drain the mozzarella pearls. If you’re using a ball of mozzarella, drain and tear it into bite-sized pieces. If you’re feeling extra fancy, use burrata – it is simply divine!

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Tear the slices of bread into bite-size pieces and spread them on a baking tray in a single layer. We normally use some defrosted Crusty Sourdough Bread slices, but any bread will work. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil, season with a generous pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp of dried thyme. Place the tray in a preheated oven for approx. 10 minutes until crispy and starting to brown.

panzanella salad

In the meantime, boil a kettle. Add the thinly sliced onion to a colander and pour over a full kettle of boiling water to soften and mellow the flavour of red onion.

Place the blanched red onions in a bowl. Add red wine vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar and a pinch of salt and set aside. The sugar will mellow the flavour further. This step is VERY IMPORTANT. If you were to add raw red onion to your Panzanella Salad, it would overpower the flavour of all the other lovely things that go in it.

To a large salad bowl, add the halved tomatoes, sliced olives, capers, basil and cucumber. Drain the sliced onions (reserving the liquid) and add to the salad too.

To make the dressing, crush a small clove of garlic, add the remaining thyme and 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to the reserved onion soaking liquid. Mix.

Divide the salad between two bowls, add the crispy croutons, mozzarella pearls (or tear the mozzarella ball into bite-size pieces) and generously drizzle with the dressing. Grind some black pepper on top!


If you’re looking for some other lighter lunch ideas, why not make one of the following:

panzanella salad

Tuscan Style Panzanella Salad

Our Tuscan-inspired Panzanella Salad is not an ordinary take-it-or-leave-it salad. It is vibrant with flavours of fresh vegetables, salty olives and tangy capers! It also makes use of some leftover bread that is going stale, which is perfect to soak up that olive oil-based dressing! If that's not enough to tempt you, we also added some pearl mozzarella to make this Italian classic one of the most enjoyable salads to have on a warm weekend day!
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Prep Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian, Tuscan
Servings 2 portions
Calories 454 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 slices of bread
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 red onion thinly sliced
  • 30 ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 250 g cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 cucumber (approx. 170g) sliced thinly into half circles
  • 10 pitted black olives sliced
  • 30 g capers
  • 10 g basil chopped roughly
  • 1 garlic clove minced/ crushed
  • 125 g mozzarella pearls, mozzarella ball or burrata

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Tear the slices of bread into bite-size pieces and spread them on a baking tray in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with a generous pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp of dried thyme. Place the tray in a preheated oven for approx. 10 minutes until crispy and starting to brown.
  • In the meantime, boil a kettle. Add the thinly sliced onion to a colander and pour over a full kettle of boiling water to mellow the flavour of red onion.
  • Place the blanched red onions in a bowl. Add red wine vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar and a pinch of salt and set aside.
  • To a large salad bowl, add the halved tomatoes, sliced olives, capers, basil and cucumber. Drain the sliced onions (reserving the liquid) and add to the salad too.
  • To make the dressing, add crushed garlic, the remaining thyme and 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to the reserved onion soaking liquid. Mix.
  • Divide the salad between two bowls, add the crispy croutons, mozzarella pearls (or tear the mozzarella ball into bite-size pieces) and generously drizzle with the dressing. Grind some black pepper on top!

Nutrition

Calories: 454kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 20gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 1003mgPotassium: 593mgFiber: 4gSugar: 9gVitamin A: 1429IUVitamin C: 39mgCalcium: 415mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Italian Stale Bread Salad, Panzanella, Panzanella Recipe, Panzanella Salad, Panzanella Salad Recipe, Panzanella Salad recipe UK, Panzanella Salad with Mozzarella, Salad with Mozarella, Stale Bread Salad, Summer Salad, Tuscan Panzanella Salad, Tuscan Recipes, Tuscan Salad, Vegetarian Panzanella Salad
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