Our Favorite Panzanella Salad!
The panzanella salad is a celebration of summer ingredients! It’s essentially an Italian bread salad with tomatoes, but you can dress it up any way you like. And the way we like is with lots of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced red onion, crispy salami bits, and an abundance of fresh basil.
The combination of these ingredients — bread, baked until crisp, absorbing fresh tomato juice; warm, fresh mozzarella cheese and hand ripped basil; crispy genoa salami — is nothing short of magic. It’s why chefs are so revered. They can evoke endless emotions with one bite of food. And trust us, this panzanella salad will spark nothing but pure joy.
Toss with a simple, lemony, Italian vinaigrette, then rest for 30 minutes or so to absorb the dressing. Perfect for easy entertaining!
Ingredients For Panzanella Salad
At its core, a classic panzanella salad combines dried bread (either toasted or stale bread) and fresh tomatoes. Easy, right? From there, you can move in a number of directions.
What type of bread is best for panzanella salad?
Honestly, this is up to you. We’re using ciabatta, but any artisan bread with a good crust will work, such as baguette, sourdough, French bread, etc. Simply cut into 1-inch cubes, then toast.
Use fresh tomatoes!
It should go without saying, but please do not use canned tomatoes in a panzanella. It’s a celebration of summer, so you want to highlight fresh, summer ingredients. We always reach for heirloom tomatoes, when possible — their flavor can’t be beat! If you’re concerned about the tomatoes keeping their shape, you can use halved grape or cherry tomatoes instead.
In addition to bread and tomatoes, we’re crisping up cubes of salami (adds a salty, crispy bite!), fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced red onion, and freshly torn basil leaves.
How To Make A Panzanella Salad
- Toast croutons! Place bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with a few tablespoons EVOO and salt. Bake in an oven until crispy!
- Chop fresh tomatoes, then season with salt — let them sit for at least 10 minutes to bring out their natural flavor and release excess tomato juice (this will get absorbed by the bread!)
- Crisp up the salami! You can omit the salami, and it’ll still be completely delicious, but we love the salty bite. Almost tastes like an antipasti panzanella salad!
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, then toss with vinaigrette.
Panzanella Salad Dressing
Okay, now that we’ve got the perfect panzanella, let’s dress it!
The vinaigrette is a simple mix of extra virgin olive oil (use something robust with a strong, nutty taste), red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, finely chopped garlic, dried oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice, and Kosher salt. Either whisk it together in a small bowl or combine vinaigrette ingredients in a mason jar, then seal tightly and shake well.
How Far In Advance Can I Make Panzanella Salad?
Panzanella salads are best the first day they’re made. They benefit from sitting for at least 30 minutes before serving, so that the bread has a chance to soak up the dressing. But after a couple hours, the bread will be soggy, so try to eat it the first day, within a couple hours.
What To Serve With Italian Bread Salad
Keep it simple: grilled chicken, shrimp, sausages, or salmon would be lovely! Grilled corn or an assortment of veggies (zucchini, squash, eggplant), would be light and fresh. It’s a relatively hearty salad – duh, bread! – so simple proteins are the way to go.
- Make it vegetarian: omit the salami!
- Add more vegetables: diced red bell pepper or chopped cucumber adds great crunch!
- Use pesto! If you don’t want to make the vinaigrette, simply switch it out for pesto!
This summertime favorite is loved by all, and for good reason. It’s flavorful, has a great texture, and looks amazing when you put out a big bowl. If you make this Panzanella Salad recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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More summer recipes to try!
- Sheet Pan Sausage And Veggies
- Peach Burrata Salad
- Grilled Spatchcock Chicken
- Mozzarella Caprese Gazpacho
- Israeli Couscous Recipe
- Medium skillet
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Large mixing bowl
For the dressing
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ½ medium lemon zested, about 1 tsp
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
For the salad
- 5 cups ciabatta bread cut into 1" cubes
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp Kosher salt divided
- 2 lbs heirloom tomatoes cut into 1" pieces, see note below
- 6 oz genoa salami cut into ¼ – ½" pieces
- 1 Tbsp neutral oil
- ½ medium red onion thinly sliced into half moons, about ½ cup
- ½ cup basil packed, hand ripped or roughly chopped
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella hand torn or cut into 1" pieces
- Flaky sea salt for serving
- Make the salad dressing. Place ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp Dijon, 1 tsp Kosher salt, ½ lemon zested, and 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice in a bowl. Whisk to combine, then set aside. Alternatively, place all dressing ingredients in a mason jar, then seal rightly and shake well.
- Toast the croutons. Preheat oven to 375F. Place bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and ½ tsp Kosher salt. Bake until crispy, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
- Salt the tomatoes. Place chopped tomatoes in a large bowl, then season with remaining ½ tsp Kosher salt. Let sit for 10 minutes (or while you prepare the rest of the salad).
- Cook the salami. Heat 1 Tbsp neutral oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add diced salami. Cook until crisp all over, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Drain on a paper towel lined plate or bowl.
- Toss the salad. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl: toasted croutons, seasoned chopped tomatoes, crispy salami, sliced red onion, ripped basil, and fresh mozzarella. Drizzle the dressing on top, then toss to evenly coat.
- Rest 30 minutes. Allow the panzanella salad to rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 1-2 hours max. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, then serve!
- If you can’t find ciabatta, use sourdough, French bread, or baguette.
- In place of heirlooms, you can use halved grape or cherry tomatoes, which hold their shape better over a longer period of time.