Panzanella Salad is at its finest when fresh tomatoes are in season, so this is a great time to put this on your menu.
Choose your favourite tomatoes, beefsteak, heirloom, even cherry or cocktail tomaotes will work (but you will need a lot of them!)
Some Panzanella recipes call for only tomatoes, toasted bread cubes and dressing but I like to get a few more veggies in so I usually add in some cucumbers and red peppers that just happen to be in season at the same time!
A word on the toasted bread – don’t go to store bought croutons. The bread cubes are a substantial part of the salad and to be honest, those little dried up commercial croutons just don’t do the job here.
My favourite is to cube up Ciabatta rolls. They are crusty and have lots of air pockets to capture the dressing! Any rustic bread that is fairly dense with air pockets will work. Rustic and dense are operative words here because a soft or refined bread will get soggy in the salad.
Don’t skip the step of letting the liquid drain from the tomatoes. You are going to reserve those juices and add them to your dressing. I can’t explain why but the juice adds way more flavour to the salad via the dressing than the chopped tomatoes!
Quantities here are very forgiving, as are other ingredients. If you like green or yellow peppers – add them in. Capers or pepperoncini can add some interest as well.
If you add some mozarella you can turn this in to a lunch portion.
This is best eaten the day it is made. You let it sit for about 30 minutes to meld the flavours but after that you risk the bread croutons getting soggy. Full disclosure – I have eaten the left overs the following day. They were not as soggy as I expected. I wouldn’t serve it to company but I was happy to have the remaining bit with my lunch!
Seasonal Panzanella Salad
- 3 large beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes aim for 2-3 pounds
- 2 tsps coarse salt Kosher salt or coarse sea salt. See Note 1.
- 4 ciabatta rolls or other rustic bread enough for about 6 cups of bread cubes
- 2 Tbsps olive oil
Optional Ingredients (See Note 2)
- 1/2 medium sweet onion diced coarsely
- 1 medium cucumber peeled and cut in to 1" chunks
- 1 red sweet pepper cut into 1" chunks
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves optional but recommended
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- tomato juice reserved from draining tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsps red wine vinegar
- fresh ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°. (Not necessay if using an air fryer.)
- Wash and cube the tomatoes in to 1" chunks or so. Put tomatoes in a strainer, toss with the salt and allow them to rest over a bowl to capture the juices for 10-20 minutes. Reserve the juices that drip in to the bowl for use in the dressing.
- Chop the bread in to 1" cubes. Toss in 2 Tbsps olive oil in a large bowl and spread out in single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes in the oven until cubes are crispy but not over-browned. If using an air fryer, spread the oiled cubes on the racks, air fry 3-5 minutes until crispy but not over-browned. Allow cubes to cool. (Can be made a day or 2 ahead and held at room temperature in an air tight container.) Stir cubes up as needed to get even crispiness.
- Whisk all the dressing ingredients except olive oil vigorously till well combined. Add the olive oil in a slow drizzle while whisking vigourously.
- Toss the tomato cubes (reserving the juice that sweated out) and any other vegetables you are using in a large bowl. Add the toasted bread cubes and toss with the dressing. Allow salad to stand at room temperature about 20 minutes so bread can absorb some of the dressing. (See Note 3 ).
- This salad is best eaten the day it is made.