A delicious summer Panzanella salad utilizing leftover bread, ripe peaches, grilled chicken, greens and tomatoes and topped off with a tasty homemade pesto vinaigrette for a truly amazing salad. If you’re looking for some more great salads during these hot summer days then check out my Watermelon Feta Salad Recipe with Grilled Flank Steak or my Summer Salad Recipe with Quinoa.
It was invented in Italy, simply because we are the best! Just kidding 🙂 Seriously though, the Italians, like many European cultures do a great job of utilizing every piece of food they have. So when there was a bunch of leftover crusty bread or a few random things from the garden, why not throw a salad together?
If this is in peak winter, then check out my Root Vegetable Panzella Salad.
What Is Panzanella
Panzanella was born in the heart of Tuscany, Italy in the 17th century and was usually only made in homes. It was the utilization of day-old crusty bread and fresh-picked produce from the garden. The two words pane, which means bread and zanella, which means soup bowl, are combined to make this classic bread salad recipe. Ingredients for this salad can vary depending on what was available.
When this salad was first being introduced the main ingredients, which are in abundance in Tuscany, were:
These were the staple produce items that kicked off the Panzanella salad along with the day-old bread. Obviously, with the abundance of fresh produce at our fingertips you can explore the salad and get creative with what you have on hand, what’s in season and what’s on sale.
An early poet named Boccaccio called this recipe Pane Lovato which means washed bread, and often times the day-old crust bread was soaked in water to help soften it up. If you ask me there is no reason to soak the bread because the vinaigrette will help do that and provide plenty of flavors.
What to Serve With Panzanella
Outside of the day-old bread, or even if you want to toast up some fresh bread to harden it a bit, the remaining ingredients are going to be up to you. If you are a bit of traditionalist, like I usually tend to be, then you will want to serve the bread with the basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and a squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil. In its simplest form is incredibly delicious.
Other things you could serve your salad are:
- fresh greens
I can’t say it enough but do not let the classic nature of this recipe get in the way of getting creative with what ingredients you want to put in it.
Pesto Vinaigrette Recipe
While the traditional Panzanella recipe would use a simple squeeze of lemon and olive oil, I wanted to take it a step further and make a really tasty pesto vinaigrette. Basil is in abundance and utilizing it in a vinaigrette for the salad seemed like a great idea.
- Add the basil, lemon juice, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese to a food processor or blender and pulse 8 to 10 times to break off the basil leaves.
- Begin to drizzle in olive oil and turn the food processor or blender to medium-high speed until it becomes emulsified and on the runnier side. This should resemble a vinaigrette and not pesto itself so it needs to be emulsified but loose.
- Finish by adding in a little cold water and salt and pepper.
Keep the dressing in the refrigerator to help preserve it and pull it out 1 hour to room temperature before serving it. There will also be plenty of vinaigrette leftover.
How to Make a Panzanella Recipe
1. Grill the chicken breast, or other desired protein, until finished. Set aside and rest until ready to slice and serve.
2. Cut the Italian bread into 1 1/2″ to 2″ cubes and coat it in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a hot grill for 3 to 4 minutes or on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and in an oven set at 400° for 5 to 7 minutes. You are not making croutons, you are just trying to lightly toast it. If you are using day-old bread, just simply cut into cubes and leave as is.
3. Make the pesto vinaigrette and set aside.
4. Prepare the tomatoes, peaches, celery, and cucumbers.
5. In a large bowl toss together the bread, salad greens, vegetables, pesto vinaigrette, salt, and pepper and toss until combined.
6. Serve the Panzanella salad with the sliced chicken on top and cheese.
This is a super balanced salad that is just dang good leftovers or bought fresh.
Recipe Chef Notes + Tips
How to Store: This should be eaten immediately if tossed with vinaigrette. If you’d like to hold it for longer, do not toss the bread and vegetables in the vinaigrette rather keep them separate and hold in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. This will not freeze.
More Salad Recipes
- Strawberry and Spinach Salad Recipe
- Mandarin Orange Salad
- Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
- Taco Salad
- Green Goddess Salad
Panzanella Recipe with Tomatoes and Pesto Vinaigrette
For the Salad:
- 1 loaf of French bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup of assorted colored cherry tomatoes sliced in half
- 3 stalks of sliced celery
- 1/2 seeded and thinly sliced cucumber
- 2 pitted and sliced peaches
- 2 cups of arugula
- 2 cups of spring mix
- 1/2 cup of Feta or goat cheese crumbles
- 2 chicken breasts
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
For the Pesto Vinaigrette:
- 2 packed cups of fresh basil leaves
- juice of 1 large lemon
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoons of pine nuts
- 3 tablespoons of water
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Coat the chicken in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper and grilled on a hot grill until cooked through. Once cooked remove from the grill and let rest.
- Next, coat the cubed French bread with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a hot grill or in the oven on 400° to quickly toast the outside of the bread. Note: you are not making croutons, just toasting the outside.
- In a food processor or Vitamix, add in the basil leaves, lemon juice, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese and quickly pulse for 5 seconds. Next, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing becomes emulsified. Finish with water, salt, and pepper to make a pesto vinaigrette.
- In a large bowl add in the toasted bread, tomatoes, celery, cucumber, peaches, arugula, spring mix, feta, a few tablespoons of the pesto vinaigrette, salt, and pepper and toss until coated.
- Slice the chicken and serve on top of the salad.
- Ingredients for panzanella salad can vary depending on what was available.
- This should resemble more a vinaigrette and not pesto itself so it needs to be emulsified but loose.
- If cooking the bread, remember you are not making croutons, you are just trying to lightly toast it. If you are using day old bread, just simply cut into cubes and leave as is.