A twist on a classic recipe, this sourdough panzanella transforms leftover bread and roasted tomatoes into a sensational salad that’s quick, easy, and ready in 30 minutes.
What is Panzanella?
Panzanella or “bread salad” is a rustic summertime dish that hails from Italy.
It combines leftover crusty bread with fresh, juicy tomatoes, onions and plenty of olive oil.
As the bread sits, it soaks up all of the delicious flavors transforming a somewhat ordinary combination into something extraordinary.
But what happens when tomatoes are not in season?
Can you still make panzanella with comparable results?
Use Roasted Tomatoes
We all know that supermarket tomatoes are pretty dodgy all year round.
They’re barely red, predictably mealy and totally flavorless.
To make panzanella anytime of year, use roasted cherry tomatoes instead.
The flavor is more concentrated and the texture becomes super soft and jammy.
Just be sure to roast the tomatoes in a relatively small baking dish so the juices will be contained when they begin to burst.
Later on, you’ll combine that sweet liquid gold with white balsamic vinegar and olive oil to create the most lip-smacking vinaigrette!
PS: this panzanella is perfect for using up any wrinkly old tomatoes hiding out in the fridge.
Choose Quality bread
I prefer leftover homemade sourdough focaccia.
It’s light, airy and incredibly flavorful.
But please go for whatever crusty, artisan-style bread you have on hand.
It can be fresh or day old, just remove any dark crusts beforehand (too bitter).
You’ll need 3-4 cups of cubed bread, about 1-inch in size, baked until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes.
Taste As You Go!
Ok, so this is important.
Panzanella is one of those recipes that requires a little bit of finesse to really make it sing.
Mix the entire salad by hand, breaking up the warm tomatoes to release their juices into the bread.
Don’t skimp on the salt. The tomatoes need it, so get in there and try a bite.
Finally: this is not a crouton salad!
The texture you’re looking for is slightly soaked (not soggy).
Add more vinegar and olive oil until you are happy with the taste and texture.
Remember, bread is like a sponge; the amount it absorbs will depend on the type you’re using.
This will be different for everyone.
How to serve Panzanella
This sourdough panzanella is best served slightly warm or at room temperature as a side dish.
The longer it sits, the better it will taste.
You can customize it too.
I added thinly sliced celery, a handful of salty black olives and fresh basil from my potted plant.
A tangle of fresh arugula is on deck for next time.
For dinner, we served this with our favorite pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from our local farm (I do this once a week).
Easy. Healthy. Frugal.Print
A twist on a classic Italian dish, this warm sourdough panzanella combines leftover focaccia with juicy, roasted tomatoes to create a unique bread salad that’s quick, easy, and ready in 30 minutes. Serve as a side dish to accompany a main course or as an appetizer with fresh burrata (my personal favorite).
The key to panzanella is finding the right balance of textures and flavors. Mix by hand, and taste as you go adding more vinegar, olive oil, and salt as needed. The texture of the bread should be slightly soaked (not soggy) or crunchy like croutons.
- Regular balsamic vinegar can replace the white balsamic, however the color of the salad will be notably darker- not my first choice. Try red wine vinegar with a splash of balsamic for sweetness.
- Focaccia is my preferred bread because it’s light and airy. Use whatever crusty artisan bread your have available. Additional vinegar and oil might be needed depending on how much liquid the bread absorbs.
- I use 3-4 cups of cubed bread to 1 pint of cherry tomatoes. Keep this ratio in mind when increasing the serving size.
1x pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3–4 cups sourdough focaccia, cut into small pieces, no larger than 1-inch
2–3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
large handful of fresh basil, torn into pieces
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
handful of black olives
fresh mozzarella, torn into chunks
Preheat the oven to 350.
Adjust the racks to fit the center and lower third; the tomatoes and bread will bake at the same time.
Add the cherry tomatoes to a small baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes just begin to burst. They should be soft, but not collapsed.
Meanwhile, cut the focaccia into 1-inch cubes. Place onto a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Bake on the center rack until lightly golden, about 20 minutes.
When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, add them with their juices to a large bowl. Add the bread, onions, 2 tbsp. of the white balsamic vinegar and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Toss the salad with your hands, gently breaking up the tomatoes to release some of their juices (you still want their shape mostly intact). Taste the salad. Add more vinegar, olive oil and salt if needed. Don’t be shy. Add a good amount of basil and mix again.
Let the salad sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
Keywords: sourdough bread, panzanella, bread salad, cherry tomatoes, artisan bread, Tuscan, Italian