Take a trip to Tuscany this summer with a fresh and juicy Tomato Panzanella Salad featuring fresh ingredients and a homemade basil vinaigrette.
Made with delicious crusty baguette, this tomato Panzanella Salad comes together with garden fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, feta cheese, and a homemade basil vinaigrette!
If this salad doesn’t scream summertime, I don’t know what will! It’s perfect for an afternoon lunch, family BBQ, Fourth of July party, poolside lunch, and so much more.
If you’re a big fan of salads without lettuce, you’ll want to give this apple salad recipe a try next.
What is Panzanella?
Panzanella is a fresh dish from Tuscany that at one time would have been referred to as “poor man’s food.”
The dish originated from peasants that used to soak Tuscan stale bread and mix it with garden vegetables. Doing this made the bread soggy, allowed them to stretch food, and make use of what they had.
According to some Italians, based on the region you are in, the word Panzanella comes from the combination of two words, “pane,” which means bread, and “zanella” which means soup bowl.
Tomato Panzanella Summer Salad Ingredients
For the salad:
Bread: to make this recipe, you will need 1/2 of a large baguette. You can also use ciabatta, sourdough, or another rustic cut of bread. Make sure to grab a bread knife as you will need to make 1-inch cubes. Note: the best bread to use is leftover bread that is going stale or stale crusty bread.
From the garden: juicy tomatoes are truly the star of the show in this recipe. I recommend using fresh Campari tomatoes. You will also need cucumbers and a very thinly sliced red onion.
Cheese: adding that extra boost of flavor, cheese is a staple food ingredient in this Panzanella salad recipe. I personally loved using crumbled feta cheese. However, if you are looking for a more traditional Panzanella cheese option, grab some fresh burrata cheese from the grocery store!
Basil Vinaigrette Dressing
Wet ingredients: the base of the vinaigrette will come together with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and red wine vinegar.
Herbs and spices: bring on the flavor with fresh ingredients like basil, mint, garlic, shallot, freshly ground black pepper, and kosher salt to taste.
Consider supporting your farmers by grabbing ingredients from your local farmers market to make this salad!
How to Make Panzanella Salad
1. Toast the bread. Place cubed baguette on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the bread. Using your hands, toss to coat. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350° F or until bread is toasted and golden brown on the edges.
2. Prepare the salad. Layer the toasted baguette, diced tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, feta cheese, and red onion on a serving platter. Drizzle with basil vinaigrette, garnish with fresh mint, and basil leaves and serve.
Making Homemade Basil Vinaigrette
Making a homemade vinaigrette is simple! Add the fresh basil, mint, garlic, shallot, olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, and black pepper to a food processor and blend on high speed until smooth.
Taste and season the vinaigrette with more salt and pepper if needed.
Before serving add some freshly grated parmesan cheese to top it off!
Recipe Tips, Tricks, and Variations
Bread: I recommend making this recipe with fresh bread and toasting it. However, if you have stale bread, this is a great way to put it to use instead of tossing it! If your local grocery store doesn’t have a baguette, you can also use ciabatta, sourdough bread, or another rustic type of bread.
Vinegar: if you don’t have any red wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar is a great substitute.
Cheese: Looking to really taste the flavors of Italy? Swap out the feta cheese and use fresh mozzarella or fresh burrata.
Added ingredients: add more flavor to the salad by adding olives, capers, or even anchovies.
United States/American version: Italian food is often looked to for inspiration on dishes. So if you are looking to change it up a bit, consider adding something different like yellow bell peppers, red bell pepper, fresh corn, and any other fresh garden vegetable.
Leftover vinaigrette: if you have leftover basil vinaigrette, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days and used on other salads throughout the week. I love to use it on this Strawberry Caprese Chicken Salad.
Which tomatoes are best to use?
Tomatoes are very important in this recipe! When making Panzanella, tomatoes speak volumes, so you want to ensure you are getting the best tomato you can.
I recommend using Campari tomatoes, however, it is more important to use plump ripe tomatoes.
Whether you are getting them from the grocery store or your personal garden, look for perfectly ripe tomatoes that are plump and heavy for their size.
When picking a tomato, it should feel firm, but still have some give. When checking the skin of the tomato, it should be tight and without bruises or blemishes.
Heirloom tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, and plum tomatoes are perfect for panzanella.
Is Panzanella good the next day?
I don’t particularly enjoy panzanella the day after preparing it. It’s truly a make and eat immediately kind of recipe, and much better when enjoyed fresh.
What to serve with Panzanella
This summer Panzanella salad is perfect for those days or nights where you are looking for something incredibly satisfying, but light!
I recommend pairing the salad with dishes that are rich in flavor, but light on the stomach.
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Tomato Panzanella Salad
- 1/2 of a large baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups Campari tomatoes diced
- 4 Persian cucumbers
- 8 ounces feta cheese in brine, crumbled
- 1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Place cubed baguette on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the bread. Using your hands, toss to coat. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until bread is toasted and golden brown on the edges.
- Layer the toasted baguette, diced tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, feta cheese, and red onion on a serving platter. Drizzle with basil vinaigrette, garnish with fresh mint and basil leave and serve.
- While the bread is toasting, prepare the vinaigrette. Place basil, mint, garlic, shallot, olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, and black pepper in a food processor.
- Blend until smooth. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- White balsamic vinegar can be used in place of red wine vinegar.
- Leftover basil vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.