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Published September 10, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This delicious Italian Panzanella Salad Recipe is loaded with bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and basil for the perfect side salad. You will love this salad which is definitely different from the normal greens salad you see every day.
I usually eat a big salad that is jam-packed with veggies several times a week. There’s nothing that tastes fresher than a large homemade salad. If you feel the same, then try my Greek Salad or Three Bean Salad.
Panzanella salad is an Italian bread salad consisting of tomatoes, onions, olive oil, vinegar, basil, and pieces of bread that are lightly soaked in water. The bread is usually several days old or can be toasted until crisp and served in the salad.
This salad’s initial intent was created to use up old bread that could no longer be served. In addition, there are variations to this salad, so feel free to add additional garden vegetables to make it more filling.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Bread – A good fresh Tuscan bread is best. However, you can use Italian or Ciabatta as well. Regardless of what you do use, classically, it should be several-day-old stale bread.
- Tomatoes – Any fresh tomato will work in this recipe. I prefer to use fresh heirloom beef steaks as they are the largest.
- Onion – A red onion works very well. However, a sweet or white onion will also work.
- Cucumbers – Fresh cucumbers are used in the salad. These can be any size or type.
- Water – Regular tap water will work fine. This is only used when using stale bread. See the chef notes and tips below.
- Vinegar – I used white wine vinegar. However, red wine vinegar or distilled vinegar will also work.
- Basil – You will need some fresh basil to finish off the salad with.
- Olive Oil – Any good extra virgin olive oil that is cold pressed, organic, and on salt is what I use.
How to Make a Panzanella Salad
Start by slicing the bread about 1” thick
Next, cut the bread into 1” cubes.
Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a large non-stick skillet over low to medium heat.
Add the cubed bread and frequently toss it around for 4 to 6 minutes.
The bread should be slightly toasted and crunchy on the outside but still soft in the middle.
Prepare the tomatoes by slicing them into quarters.
Slice the cucumbers into half-moons.
Thinly sliced the red onion.
Add the bread to the plate and layer on with the sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle on the vinegar and remaining olive oil.
Finish it with fresh basil leaves and serve.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: This salad is meant to be eaten as soon as it is done being made. However, you can prepare everything, including cutting the bread and vegetables, without tossing anything in water, vinegar, or oil up to 2 days before serving.
How To Store: You can cover this and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. This will not freeze well.
Chef Notes + Tips
- If you do not have access to older stale bread, I recommend making croutons that are slightly underdone while being crunchy on the outside and a little soft on the inside, by baking fresh bread in the oven.
- You can add greens to the salad, such as romaine, leaf lettuce, escarole, etc.
- It would also be classic to add on some bell peppers.
- If you are using stale bread, here are the procedures: Add the bread to a large bowl and slowly pour in 3 tablespoons of cold water while continuing to mix. Pour in the vinegar slowly while continuing to stir. The bread at this stage should not be waterlogged. If it’s days old and slightly stale, then it should still have some chew to it. Set it aside for a few minutes.
More Salad Recipes
Panzanella Salad Recipe
- ½ loaf Italian-style bread
- 7 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 Roma tomatoes
- ½ large cucumber
- ¼ peeled red onion
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 20 fresh basil leaves
- coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Start by slicing the bread about 1” thick.
- Next, cut the bread into 1” cubes.
- Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a large, non-stick skillet over low to medium heat.
- Add the cubed bread and frequently toss it around for 4 to 6 minutes.
- The bread should be slightly toasted and crunchy on the outside but still soft in the middle. Set them aside.
- Prepare the tomatoes by slicing them into quarters.
- Slice the cucumbers into half-moons.
- Thinly slice the red onion.
- Add the bread to the plate and layer on with the sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.
- Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle on the vinegar and olive oil.
- Finish it with fresh basil leaves and serve.