Panzanella Salad

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With crispy, olive oil-soaked Italian bread, juicy tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, panzanella makes a satisfying summer supper.

Panzanella is a rustic Tuscan salad made from toasted bread, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Though it was originally created as a way to use up stale bread, I love it so much that I typically buy a loaf of fresh bread just to make it.

The crispy, olive oil-soaked bread and vinaigrette flavored with tomato juices and garlic make panzanella supremely satisfying. To me, it holds its own as a light summer supper. But for my meat-and-potatoes husband and two teenagers, I serve a simple protein, like grilled pesto shrimp or grilled chicken breasts with lemon and garlic, alongside.

What You’ll Need To Make Panzanella Salad

ingredients for panzanella salad

There are endless versions of panzanella but they all start with good, hearty Italian bread and tomatoes. This version, inspired by a recipe in Barefoot Contessa Parties!, also includes bell peppers, cucumbers, capers, and lots of fresh basil. Instead of the more typical red onions, I use shallots, which have a milder flavor.

How To Make Panzanella Salad

cubed bread for panzanella

Begin by cutting the bread into 1-inch cubes. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread and 1/2 teaspoon salt; toss well.

toasting bread in skilletCook, stirring frequently, until the bread is crispy and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Most recipes, including the one this is based on, will have you rest the salad for up to a few hours to allow the bread to soak up the dressing. I prefer the bread crispy, so I toss it at the last minute and reserve some to sprinkle over the salad as a garnish.

golden toasted bread cubes in skillet

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, capers, wine vinegar, garlic, shallots, pepper, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup oil.

vegetables and dressing ingredients for panzanella salad in mixing bowl

Toss well.

tossing vegetables with dressing for panzanella

Right before serving, add two-thirds of the toasted bread and basil to the salad.

adding toasted bread and basil to mixing bowl

Toss to combine, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Don’t be shy with the salt, as this salad begs for a lot of seasoning.

tossed panzanella salad

Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and sprinkle the remaining toasted bread cubes over top. Serve immediately so the bread doesn’t get soggy.

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Panzanella Salad

With crispy, olive oil-soaked Italian bread, juicy tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, panzanella makes a satisfying summer supper.

Servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 cups rustic Italian bread, cut into 1-in cubes (about 3/4 lb)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1-1/2 pounds tomatoes, cut into 1-in cubes (about 2 large)
  • 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, cut into 1-in cubes
  • 1 small English or hothouse cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced shallots, from 1 large shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped basil

Instructions

  1. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread and 1/2 teaspoon salt; toss well. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bread is crispy and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, capers, wine vinegar, garlic, shallots, pepper, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup oil. Toss well.
  3. Right before serving, add two-thirds of the toasted bread and basil to the salad. Toss to combine, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary (I usually add about 1/4 tsp more salt). Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle the remaining toasted bread cubes over top. Serve immediately so the bread doesn't get soggy.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This dish is delicious! Flavors and textures are all amazing. I have a couple tips: if you don’t think you can eat it all at once, before you put the bread in the salad, split the salad in half, then mix in half of the bread and keep the other half dry, separate from the other half of the salad. Then when it’s time to enjoy the rest of it, mix in your reserved bread to the reserved salad. Don’t try to simply put the bread on your plate and then put the salad over the top. The textures and flavors were all off. You really need to mix in the bread. Anyway, it is an amazing salad that all the adults in my family enjoyed thoroughly!

    • — Kristin on August 27, 2020
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  • I started making this last summer and recently made it again! We are huge fans of Panzanellas and I love the capers in the dressing of this one! This is an amazing meal with grilled steak tips on top of it! I also use Olive Oil Ciabatta for the bread and just tear it into small pieces. It is a wonderful dinner!

    • — Laura Cox on August 27, 2020
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  • I made this salad in late July for a friend’s 60th birthday barbecue. The Panzanella Salad was her favorite from the wide selection of salads at the party. Weeks later, she still talks about how delicious it was. I love being the food rockstar!

    • — Michelle on August 13, 2020
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  • Made this & ate it for dinner, then breakfast (with a fried egg & sautéed greens) & then lunch the next day

    • — Cat on August 3, 2020
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  • So delicious. I didn’t have white wine vinegar so I used white balsalmic vinegar. Thank you!

    • — softshell36 on July 23, 2020
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  • This is such a good way to use up dry bread – the older the better, practically, because of that great crispy/chewy bite once the croutons soak up the salad juices. Kids and hubby all love this “bread salad.”

    • — Audrey on July 23, 2020
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  • My whole family loves this dish! I toasted the bread pieces in the oven and added cannelini beans for some added protein. Otherwise, followed the recipe as written and this is a perfect summer salad.

    • — Shivam S on June 8, 2020
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  • This salad is absolutely delicious and so easy to make! My husband loved it, as did I. It is flavorful and colorful; what’s not to like?

    • — Kim L on June 4, 2020
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  • Amazing and so easy to make. I left out the capers because my husband doesn’t like them and it was still delicious. Definitely making this again very soon.

    • — Courtney S on May 26, 2020
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  • This was excellent! Although I also made the homemade croutons- it was great without them as well.

    • — Darlene on May 2, 2020
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  • I made this salad along with your restaurant style salmon. Delicious! Another winner! Thanks, Jenn!

    • — Colette Dryden on September 16, 2019
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  • Can you toast bread in oven as croutons

    • — Poonam on September 4, 2019
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    • Yes, that will work. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 4, 2019
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  • Is there a substitute for the capers or can they be omitted?

    • — Lynda O'Brien on August 31, 2019
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    • It’s fine to just omit them, Lynda. Hope you enjoy the salad!

      • — Jenn on August 31, 2019
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  • I’ve always wanted to try panzanella, I remember seeing Ina make it on Barefoot Contessa years ago, but I’m a picky fresh tomato person so I’ve always put it off…until today when I checked my inbox and saw your recipe, realizing I had everything I needed fresh from the garden. I can’t stop eating it. It’s amazing! I’m sure the stellar veggies and fresh baked bread have a lot to do with it, but your flavors are spot on! Per usual 😁 thank you for the perfect addition to my summer time dinner rotation!

    • — Brooke on August 29, 2019
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  • Yes, I made this, I have all the barefoot contessa books by the way… the salad was very good, I will make it again from time to time. thank you, David (I don’t know how to share it on Instagram or I would.)

    • — david on August 29, 2019
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