Panzanella Salad (Tomato Bread Salad)

June 6, 2012Katie

Summer heat begs for dishes like this.

Fresh, delicious, summer-ripe tomatoes,  cucumbers, red peppers, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and roasted red onions mixed in with crispy bread that is just beginning to soak in a bit of homemade vinaigrette dressing.

My heirloom tomatoes are popping out all over my yard so I am looking daily for scrumptious recipes to put them in.

Panzanella, or Bread Salad, as some may call it, will become a staple recipe around my house.  I made it last night, and have been thinking about it all day today.  I think I’ve made it pretty well-known that I adore Bruschetta, and this is kind of like Bruschetta-in-a-bowl.  The flavors sing together in a flavorful harmony that make your eyes close and your taste buds tingle with happiness.

Panzanella is of Tuscan origin.  Bread in Tuscany used to be made without salt (to protest the Medici salt monopoly) and became stale very quickly. This recipe became popular during tomato season, as the fresh-picked tomato juices softened the bread in the salad and made it salvagable.  You can make this salad with stale bread or simply toast it as I’ve done.

To begin, take one medium-large size red onion.  Slice it through from root end to the top end of the onion.  Then cut wedges in the same direction (root to top).  Cut about 8 wedges.  The results you want are thin onion petals.  (I forgot to take pictures of this step…sorry!)  Toss the onion petals in about 1/4 cup of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place on a lined baking sheet and put in a 350º oven for 20 minutes.  Take out, flip all the onion wedges over for another 20 minutes.  The onions should be caramelized and brownedon the outside and white and creamy on the inside.


Take each wedge off the foil and slice off the ends and peel off the paper outside.  Toss them into a large bowl.


Now mind you, I could take a fork and eat these right now.  But I’ll wait for the glory that’s to come.

Toast your bread cubes.  Cut 1/2 loaf of french bread into 1 inch cubes.


Toss them onto your lined baking sheet (I used the same one I used for the onions) in a single layer. Sometimes I use two sheets and put them in the oven at the same time.  Drizzle some olive oil over them and sprinkle with kosher salt.


Toast them in a 350º oven for about 20 minutes, or until they resemble a crouton and are all golden-brown and crunchy.  Give them a stir a time or two.


Allow to cool somewhat – about 10 minutes before adding to the salad.

Cut up one cucumber, one-half of a red pepper, and chiffonade up 3 tablespoons of fresh basil (about 8 leaves).


Toss them into the bowl with your onion petals.

Also cut up some fresh mozzarella into one-inch cubes.  I used about a cup and a half.


Throw it into your bowl and go ahead and add your bread cubes as well.


Now grab four vine-ripened tomatoes.  You really want to use good quality, sweet, juicy tomatoes for this.  Sweet grape tomatoes, cut in half, would also work wonderfully.

Now chop up your tomato in small chunks.  Add them into your bowl.


Mix up a quick vinaigrette.

Add one teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons honey,  1 t. sugar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to a bowl.  Whisk it up.

Pour it over your salad.


Chop up 2 cloves of garlic very fine, or squeeze them over your salad with a press.


Toss your salad so everything gets coated really well with the dressing.


Can I confess something to you? Last night I made this entire bowl.

Then I transferred a single serving to a smaller bowl.


The kids were gone and Mr. Wonderful ended up not eating at home.  So I thought, “what the heck!” and I served myself another bowl.


I think know that I ended up eating this whole bowl for dinner.


By myself.

Do I regret it?

Not one single bit.

Cooking with Love,


Panzanella Salad (Tomato Bread Salad)
Recipe type: Salad
  • ½ loaf French bread, cut in 1 inch cubes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 4 medium size vine ripened tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cup fresh mozzarella, cut in 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • 3 T. chiffonade of fresh basil
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thru root ends, cut in 8 wedges (leave skin and roots on)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 T. honey
  • Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. For Roasted Red Onions:
  2. Toss onions with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Spread onions on sheet pan and roast in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
  4. Turn onions over and roast for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until onions are lightly browned on the outside and soft and creamy inside.
  5. Cool.When onions are cool, discard outer skin and cut off roots, allowing onion sections to fall apart into individual "petals".
  6. Combine cooked onion with any residual cooking juices in a bowl and set aside.
  7. For Toasting Croutons: line baking sheet with foil and spread bread cubes in single layer.
  8. Drizzle generously with olive oil.
  9. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  10. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes or until bread is golden brown and crunchy like croutons.
  11. Dressing Instructions:
  12. Put all in bowl and whisk until well-blended.
  13. To assemble salad – Put all ingredients in large bowl.
  14. Pour dressing over. Allow to marry for 15-30 minutes.
  15. Dressing should soak into croutons a bit.
  16. Serve within one hour.



Panzanella on Foodista


  • Marie at The Lazy W

    May 31, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Katie! Wow. Gorgeous recipe, as always, and I will be making this pronto. But really, thank you so much for the fascinating history lesson!! More of that in the future, please and thank you. SO fun. I can't wait to serve this at a dinner party and casually impress everyone with my secret intelligent knowledge. LOL Awesome!!

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