Panzanella

Panzanella Salad (Bread SAlad) with chunks of crusty soaked bread, juicy tomatoes, basil and the best tangy, Italian herb dressing! It’s quick, astonishingly easy and extraordinarily delicious.

This Panzanella recipe is my take on the classic Italian salad characterized by the magic of the herb laced vinaigrette mixing with the tomato juices and soaking into the bread, softening it up a bit while infusing it with tons of flavor.  This Panzanella is not only loaded with traditional crusty bread, juicy tomatoes and tangy red onions, but the hypnotic addition of sweet peaches, buttery mozzarella, crispy cucumbers and silky, salty prosciutto.  Of, course, you can take or leave any of the ingredients, but this particular combo is sweet-salty, tangy, herbaceous and utterly addicting.  Try this Panzanella Salad once and it will become an instant favorite!  Serve it as a stand-alone summer meal or alongside any hot-off the grill protein, creamy pasta, cozy soup or cheesy grilled panini/sandwich. 

This Panzanella Salad is right up there with our other favorite side salads including:  Cucumber Tomato Salad, Italian Tortellini Pasta Salad, Strawberry Broccoli Salad, Creamy Bacon Pea Pasta SaladCorn Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad,  and Grape Salad

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top view of panzanella in a wood serving bowl with tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, basil, tomatoes and mozzarella

What is PANZANELLA?

Does it get any better than bread salad?! Because that’s exactly what Panzanella is!  Panzanella [pantsaˈnɛlla] or panmolle [pamˈmɔlle] is the Tuscan salad of your dreams, because instead of lettuce, it uses bead!  

At its simplest, Panzanella is nothing more than stale or toasted bread, red onions, tomatoes and basil dressed with olive oil and vinegar.  The magic happens when the vinaigrette soaks into the toasted bread, moistening and softening it up a bit while infusing it with tons of flavor.  Other ingredients can also be added such as mozzarella, carrots, bell peppers, capers, olives, eggs, mint, etc.  I also love adding fresh fruit such as peaches, blackberries or strawberries along with salty prosciutto.

what does PANZANELLA mean in Italian?

The term panzanella describes the dish.  It is a portmanteau of “pane,” meaning bread in Italian, and “zanella,” meaning soup bowl, referring to the deep plate in which it is served in.

Where did PANZANELLA originate?

Panzanella is Italy’s thrifty solution for extra tomatoes and stale bread. Bread has been a staple food in the Mediterranean region for millennia, so it’s no wonder that creative repurposing of the summertime bounty of tomatoes gave birth to this traditional salad.

The first written documentation of panzanella is by the famous Italian artist and poet, Agnolo di Cosimo, more widely known as Bronzino, who sings its praises in the early 16th century:

“Un’insalata di Cipolla trita con la porcellanetta e cetriuoli vince ogn’altro piacer di questa vita.”

Meaning: “A [bread] salad made with chopped onions, purslane [a type of wild succulent lettuce], and cucumbers surpasses all other pleasures in this life.”

Tomatoes were added later in the 16th century after they were brought back from the Americas (tomatoes didn’t exist in Europe before then!)  Over time, this bread salad evolved into the beloved Panzanella Salad we all crave today with moistened bread, tomatoes, mozzarella, cucumbers and herbs.

PANZANELLA recipe

Summer is in full swing which means a bounty of fresh tomatoes, peak temperatures and Panzanella Salad for dinner!  This bread and tomato salad will make a salad lover out of the toughest critics. It’s light and fresh but still hearty and satisfying enough to make it a meal.  Here’s why you’ll love it:

Delicious! I have to be honest, when I first heard of Panzanella, I was pretty skeptical of bread salad, but this recipe proved me wrong!  It’s a study in textures and refreshing Italian flavors with the tomato juice, herb infused bread, creamy mozzarella, crisp cucumbers, succulent fruit and salty prosciutto.  It’s a salty-sweet, crunchy-creamy, combo that’s vibrant, beautiful and will make your taste buds giddy! 

Fool proof – not soggy!  This recipe is inspired by authentic Panzanella recipes but is not traditional.  I’ve found making a few changes such as toasting the bread instead of soaking it in water, adding cucumbers, peaches and mozzarella, adding plenty of herbs to the dressing and using smaller tomatoes creates the best flavored and textured salad and avoids the mushy, bland or watery pitfalls of many recipes. Instead, the bread boasts golden-crisp edges with a soft, pillow-y, tomato-herb inside.

Always a crowd pleaser.  Not everyone loves salad, but I can guarantee you everyone will love this bread salad.  It’s the answer to all your potluck needs or serve it up as a light dinner. 

A make-ahead favorite.  This Panzanella is also great for potlucks or meal prep because you can layer all of the salad ingredients in a serving bowl and then just add the dressing 20-30 minutes before serving. 

Versatile, add whatever you want!  The beauty of this Panzanella recipe is you can make it a simple or as lavish as you’d like. Feel free to keep it traditional with just bread, tomatoes and onions or add any veggies or fruit of your choosing.  I’ve included all types of variations below.

side view of showing how to make panzanella by adding the ingredients to a wood bowl:  cubed bread, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and basil

Authentic Panzanella vs. This Recipe

As mentioned above, this Panzanella recipe is inspired by traditional recipes but is not traditional.  I’ve improved the bread soaking technique to eliminate soggy bread and bolstered the salad with flirty flavors and textures for additional taste bud pleasure, which you can take or leave, but I think the additions are swoon worthy. 

Here’s how this recipe differs from authentic Panzanella:   

Oven-drying fresh bread produces a better texture than using soaked stale bread.  In truly authentic Panzanella recipes, stale bread is soaked in water for about 15 minutes, wrung out, cut up or crumbled by hand then tossed in the dressing.   This makes for sad, soggy salad without the pleasing chewiness.  Instead, the bread practically disintegrates!

My recipe differs by first tossing cubes of bread in olive oil and seasonings, then toasting it in the oven.  This hands-off approach dries out the bread, along with the added flavor bonus of the Maillard reaction, to achieve the very best texture.   Next, you’ll toss the bread with the tomatoes, other salad ingredients and olive oil, red wine vinegar dressing and let it soak for about 30 minutes, just long enough for the flavors to meld and the bread to soak up the dressing without becoming mushy.  When it’s time to dig in, the Panzanella will be moist, spongy on the outside, but sturdy and chewy on the inside.

Classic Panzanella Salad is made with a few simple ingredients but in this recipe, the addition of a few key elements elevates the salad to a head-above-the rest.  Traditional Panzanella recipes are more pared down with just bread, tomatoes, onions and sometimes cucumbers and basil.  You are welcome to keep with just these ingredients, but if you want to truly elevate your Panzanella, I find adding creamy mozzarella, sweet peaches and other sweet fruit such as blackberries, cantaloupe or strawberries along with salty, silky prosciutto and crunchy sunflower seeds makes for a spectacular flavor/texture explosion you will crave.

The dressing in my Panzanella recipe is not just olive oil and red wine vinegar.  Instead, it’s amped up with a hint of Dijon mustard and seasonings typically included in Italian dressing such as oregano, parsley, basil, garlic, salt and pepper for superior, subtle, layered flavor in every bite.  It may seem like a lot going on, but the salad can handle it and craves it, especially because the flavors are toned down when mingled with the tomato juice and other fresh ingredients.   

What bread is best for panzanella? 

The bread is the star of this bread salad!  For the best Panzanella, you want to use a flavorful, hearty bread that is sturdy enough to soak in the juices from the tomatoes and vinaigrette without becoming soggy – soft and chewy yes, but not soggy.  I like ciabatta or sourdough but any rustic Italian loaf or even French bread will work.

I’ve found the very best texture is fresh bread (or day old), that is not stale.  This means the bread will dry out when you toast in the oven with a golden-crispy outside but still be soft and pliable in the middle, as opposed to stale bread that is tough through hand through.

The bread will be toasted in the oven tossed in a hearty drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, garlic powder and pepper so it is stand alone delicious. 

 Here’s the breakdown of breads in order of preference:

  • Ciabatta Bread:  is my favorite for Panzanella Salad with its firm crust and dense crumb with alveolar holes that make it taste chewier rather than dense, and help prevent it from getting soggy.
  • Sourdough Bread:  another favorite with its tangy flavor, crisp, crackly crust and chewy texture.  Use sourdough that is hole-y instead of dense.
  • Tuscan Country Bread/Artisan Loaf:  is traditional in Panzanella recipes with its dense crumb and crunchy crust. It tends to get softer than ciabatta bread.
  • Crusty French Bread:  is hard and crusty on the outside, with a light and soft crumb, less dense than Tuscan bread.  Make sure to get rustic, country French bread with a spongy center, not the cotton candy soft center that will quickly become soggy. 

Don’t use:

  • any soft, light bread, baguettes or dinner rolls. Their cotton candy texture will turn to mush when tossed with the dressing. 
  • bread that is extra dense because it won’t absorb enough dressing.  Medium dense is best.
  • bread without toasting it, even if it’s stale.  Even though stale bread starts out hard, it can become mushy once tossed with the dressing because it is not dried in the oven (dried and stale are two very different things).

What is in Panzanella salad?

In addition to bread, you will need tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, red onions, basil, mozzarella and I love adding some sort of sweet fruit and prosciutto to add flavor, depth and to balance each other out.  Here are the ingredients you will need (full measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Tomatoes:  ripe, juicy, sweet tomatoes are a must!  You can’t make a great Panzanella without great tomatoes.  I favor cherry tomatoes and other smaller tomatoes to make this bread salad because they are flavorful and juicy yet firm.  They are not as juicy as larger heirloom tomatoes so they won’t make your salad overly wet or break down in the salad.  If you want to use larger tomatoes, I recommend using half heirloom along with cherry tomatoes. 
  • Basil:  is fragrant, sweet and peppery with a hint of anise.  Measure the basil before you chop it, but of course, you can always add more if you like. Please use fresh basil for this recipe and chop it instead of chiffonade so it’s more evenly disperse throughout the salad.   
  • Cucumbers:  use an English cucumber, cut into somewhat thick sliced quarters, about ½ inch, so they don’t get lost in the salad or use crispy Persian cucumbers.  If you use a standard cucumber, scoop out the seeds after you cut it in half if it’s extra seedy or the juices will dilute the flavor of the salad and make it extra wet.
  • Red onion:  brings the zippy punch.  If you prefer a milder onion flavor, soak the sliced onions in the dressing for 10 minutes directly in the serving bowl.  This will pickle the onions slightly – yum!
  • Mozzarella: buttery, creamy hearty, fresh mozzarella pearls add that irresistible creamy component.  I like to slice the balls into halves or quarters for mozzarella in every bite.  You can also purchase one large fresh ball of mozzarella and tear it into small pieces.   Please avoid cheap blocks of part skim mozzarella because it’s not nearly as creamy and flavorful.
  • Peaches: are not a traditional ingredient in Panzanella Salad, but are a sweet, heavenly addition in the summer.  Select ripe peaches for this recipe. A ripe peach will smell sweet and “give” slightly when gently squeezed and won’t have any hints of green. A ripe peach is not necessarily red; red simply comes from direct sun exposure.
  • Fruit:  in addition to the peaches, I recommend 1 cup of another sweet fruit, especially if adding the prosciutto.  Mangos, blackberries, strawberries or cantaloupe are all delicious. 
  • Parma Ham (Prosciutto di Parma): is one of the finest types of ham in the world.  It’s a paper-thin type of prosciutto (Italian dry-cured ham that is usually thinly sliced and served uncooked) that’s melt-in-the-mouth indulgent, slightly sweet, savory and salty. The “Parma” in “Parma Ham” means it’s made in Parma, in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy and is protected by strict standards before being branded with the certification trademark, the Ducal Crown.  You’ll most likely find the ham ready-sliced in packets in the deli section of the grocery store.  Look for the Ducal Crown stamp on the packaging to ensure you’re getting the real deal. Use within 3 days.  Make sure to remove the package from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving so it comes up to room temperature.  If it’s too cold, the delicate flavors won’t come through.  
Panzanella salad on a white serving plate garnished with salt and pepper, soaked in red wine vinaigrette

SALAD DRESSING

The dressing for this Panzanella Salad is a tangy, robust herbaceous Italian dressing that will mellow when mixed with the tomato juices.  It’s marries all of the ingredients together as it blends with the juices from the tomatoes and seeps into the bread. It’s super simple to whip up, here’s what you need:   

  • Olive oil:  use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Red wine vinegar: for its fruity tanginess.  Please don’t substitute with another vinegar here, especially white vinegar because it’s too strong. 
  • Lemon juice: fresh is best but you may use bottled.  If you don’t have any handy, you may substitute with red wine vinegar.  TIP:  For fresh lemon juice at your fingertips, freeze leftover lemon juice by the tablespoon in ice cube trays.
  • Honey:  just a teaspoon adds sweetness and balances the tanginess of the vinegar and lemon juice.  Use more or less depending on how tangy you would like your dressing.
  • Dijon mustard: helps balance the sweetness and adds a layer of subtle flavor. I used coarse grain but you may use smooth Dijon as well.
  • Seasonings:  an adept blend of Italian seasonings really brings the flavor.  You’ll add dried oregano, dried parsley, dried basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  You are welcome to use fresh garlic, but I find garlic powder disperses more easily in this recipe.

panzanella RECIPE VARIATIONS

You can mix up this Panzanella Salad in countless ways but please don’t skip the bread, tomatoes, onions or basil, they are critical to the flavor.  Other than that, feel free to omit or add additional ingredients.  Here are some recipe variation ideas:

  • Add protein:  make the Panzanella even more of a meal by adding simple shredded rotisserie chicken, balsamic chicken, lemon basil chicken,  grilled shrimp, marinated flank steak, leftover steak or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Omit ingredients:  you can take this Panzanella recipe back to its roots by omitting the peaches, other sweet fruit, mozzarella and/or Parma ham.   If you omit any of these ingredients, consider bulking up the cucumbers or tomatoes or adding different ingredients.
  • Add greens:  bulk up the salad by adding greens such as baby arugula or a spring salad mix. If you add greens, you’ll want to make additional dressing (use the arrows next to the servings in the recipe card to adjust the measurements), or swap some of the lettuce for some of the bread.  The greens should be added just be serving and not marinated for the 20-30 minutes.
  • Add vegetables: you can add any vegetables your heart desires!  Bell peppers, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, etc. would all be tasty. 
  • Add avocados:  slice or chop a large avocado for satisfying creamy bursts to complement the crunchy textures.  Make sure you use a ripe avocado but not overly ripe or it will turn to mush.  Add the avocados just before serving.  
  • Add dried cranberries:  also known as craisins, are plump, sweet, juicy gems in salad.  You can use ½ cup instead of the 1 cup sweet fruit called for. Craisins are often located next to the salad condiments/toppers at the end of the produce aisle or they’re sold in the bulk bins at Sprouts. 
  • Swap cheese: swap the mozzarella for salty, tangy feta, creamy, tangy goat cheese, rich and salty provolone, or salty Parmigiano (or add Parmigiano in addition to any of the above!).
  • Add nuts: sprinkle in your favorite toasted nuts such as sliced almonds, walnuts, or pistachios.
  • Make it dairy free:  omit the cheese, the rest of the ingredients are dairy free.
  • Make it vegan:  omit the cheese and Parma ham; substitute your favorite sweetener for the honey.
  • Make it gluten free: use your favorite gluten free bread.

HOW TO MAKE panzanella

Panzanella is very quick and simple to make because you prep the dressing and remaining salad ingredients while the bread toasts in the oven. The hardest part is waiting the 20 minutes for the bread to soak up the dressing.  Here’s how to make it (full recipe measurements in recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Toast the bread.  Toasting the bread gives it structure so it has the capacity to soak up the dressing without becoming mushy.  You want the bread to be crispy on the edges but still chewy in the middle, much like toast.  To toast the bread, toss the cubed bread with a drizzle of olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, let the bread cool, then transfer to a large serving bowl.
showing how to make Panzanella by toasting bread cubes on a baking sheet
  • Step 2: Make the Dressing. Whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl or shake in a jar. 
showing how to make Panzanella Salad recipe by whisking the dressing ingredients together in a jar
  • Step 3: Assemble.  Add all of the salad ingredients to the bread except in the large serving bowl except for the Parma ham, drizzle with the dressing and gently toss to coat.
showing how to make Panzanella recipe by adding tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, bread, basil and mozzarella to a large serving bowl
  • Step 4: Marinate.  Let the salad rest for 20-30 minutes so that bread can absorb the dressing/tomato juices.  Give it a toss, right before serving. 
  • Step 5: Dig in!  Divide salad between serving plates and top individual portions with Parma ham.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, then dig in!  
showing how to make Panzanella by tossing the bread, tomatoes and dressing in a wooden bowl

TIPS FOR THE BEST panzanella SALAD

This Panzanella Salad is super simple to make, but here are a few tips to make it the very best!  

  • Use a sturdy, rustic loaf of bread with a crunchy crust.  I prefer ciabatta with its chewy crust over Tuscan country bread, but you can go for an Italian loaf if you prefer softer melting bread.  
  • Use fresh, not stale bread.  It is better to dry the bread out in the oven by toasting it rather than using stale bread.  Toasted bread will absorb the dressing better whereas stale bread can taste leathery.
  • Don’t cut the bread too small.  You want pretty big chunks of bread, about 1-inch, because they will shrink in the oven, and bigger pieces have the best ratio of crispiness to chewiness. Smaller pieces can easily become crouton hard.
  • Don’t skip toasting the bread. Toast the bread in the oven before tossing it with the dressing, even if your bread is already somewhat stale, or you’ll end up with soggy, even mushy Panzanella.
  • Don’t over-toast bread. When toasting the bread, you want the edges to get crispy and the inside to get firm but still chewy, not rock hard.  If your bread gets too hard, plan on soaking it for longer to soften.
  • Don’t use all large tomatoes.  As discussed, large tomatoes are extra juicy and can make your salad soggy and even fall apart after marinating.  It is best to use half large tomatoes and half smaller tomatoes, or all small tomatoes.
  • Use ripe tomatoes.  The riper the tomatoes, the sweeter, richer, the better the Panzanella!  When using cherry tomatoes or small tomatoes, make sure to cut them in half – we want all those juices for the dressing!
  • Customize the salad.   The Panzanella ingredient measurements are simply suggestions.  You can add/swap any ingredients for your favorite veggies and fruits or omit ingredients altogether.
  • Customize the dressing.  Don’t be afraid to make the dressing your own.  Make it sweeter by adding more honey or tangier by adding additional vinegar one teaspoon at a time.
  • Let the Panzanella Salad sit for before serving.  Unlike some salad recipes, like Watermelon Salad, this Panzanella Salad should not be served immediately.  The resting time will depend on how soft you like the bread, but I find 20-30 minutes produces the ideal texture with bread that’s soft yet chewy and not soggy. If you like your bread softer, let it rest longer, up to 4 hours, if you like it firmer, let it rest for less time. 
  • Scale the recipe.  This recipe is easy to scale up for large crowds/potlucks or down in half for lunches by using the up and down arrow in the recipe card next to the servings. 

does panzanella keep well?

To me, this comes down to personal preference and how toasty your bread was to start with.  If you don’t mind softer/borderline soggy bread salad, then it can keep for up to two days. It will also keep better if you start off with crispier bread which will make leftovers less soggy. If you’re not a soggy bread fan, then plan on enjoying the salad right away or only add dressing to part of the salad.

How to store Panzanella

The bread will become softer the longer it sits, so if you don’t like soggy bread, eat the Panzanella fresh, otherwise, store leftover Panzanella in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 

top view of Panzanella in a wood bowl with tomatoes, bread and onions

CAN I MAKE panzanella AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes, you can prep all of the ingredients for the Panzanella Salad ahead of time but keep the dressing separate.  Here’s how to make ahead:

  • Toast bread: toast fresh bread up to 24 hours ahead of time and store in an airtight container on the counter. 
  • Prepare salad ingredients:  chop all of the salad ingredients and layer in a large serving bowl in this order so the ingredients don’t become soggy:  tomatoes, onions, sweet fruit, peaches, cucumbers, mozzarella, basil.  Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to add the dressing.
  • Dressing:  can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
  • Serve:  now all you have to do is combine, let the bread salad rest for 20-30 minutes, then devour!

what do you serve with panzanella?

Panzanella is delicious served alongside any of your favorite summer fare from grilled chicken and steak to burgers and kebabs. It’s equally delicious alongside more cozy dishes like soup or stews, creamy pastas, Italian classics or cheesy melted Italian sandwiches.  Here are some fun ideas to serve with Panzanella Salad:

LOOKING FOR MORE SUMMER SIDE SALAD RECIPES?

showing how how to serve panzanella salad recipe by adding to a plate and garnishing with fresh basil
top view of Panzanella in a wood bowl with tomatoes, bread and onions

Panzanella

This Panzanella recipe is my take on the classic Italian salad characterized by the magic of the herb laced vinaigrette mixing with the tomato juices and soaking into the bread, softening it up a bit while infusing it with tons of flavor.  This Panzanella is not only loaded with traditional crusty bread, juicy tomatoes and tangy red onions, but the hypnotic addition of sweet peaches, buttery mozzarella, crispy cucumbers and silky, salty prosciutto.  Of, course, you can take or leave any of the ingredients, but this particular combo is sweet-salty, tangy, herbaceous and utterly addicting.  Try this Panzanella Salad once and it will become an instant favorite!  Serve it as a stand-alone summer meal or alongside any hot-off the grill protein, creamy pasta, cozy soup or cheesy grilled panini/sandwich. 
Servings: 8 -10
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

TOASTED BREAD

  • 12 oz. ciabatta or sourdough bread cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. EACH salt, garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

SALAD

  • 1 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound additional tomatoes: cherry or small tomatoes, halved OR heirloom or vine ripe tomatoes cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • 1 cup sweet fruit (blackberries, mangos, cantaloupe or strawberries, etc.)
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced 1/2-inch thick, quartered
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella (use snacking pearls or tear a larger ball into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1/4 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • 4 slices Parma ham/prosciutto di Parma

DRESSING

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (may sub 1 TBS red wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp EACH chopped fresh oregano, parsley OR ½ tsp EACH dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 tsp EACH garlic powder, pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF. Spread cubed bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and seasonings; toss to coat. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and crisp but centers are slightly chewy like toast (we are NOT making croutons, we don’t want them hard). Let the bread cool, then transfer to a large serving bowl.
  • Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking all of the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or shaking in a tightly covered jar.
  • Add all of the salad ingredients to the bread in the large serving bowl except for the Parma ham. Drizzle with the dressing and gently toss to coat. Let the salad rest for 20-30 minutes (more or less depending on desired bread softness) so that bread can absorb the dressing/juices; add more olive oil if the bread is too dry. Give it a toss, right before serving.
  • Top individual portions with Parma ham. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

  • Don’t use bread without toasting it, even if it’s stale.  Even though stale bread starts out hard, it can become mushy once tossed with the dressing because it is not dried in the oven (dried and stale are two very different things).
  • Don’t over-toast bread. When toasting the bread, you want the edges to get crispy and the inside to get firm but still chewy, not rock hard.  If your bread gets too hard, plan on soaking it for longer to soften.
  • Parma Ham (Prosciutto di Parma): is one of the finest types of prosciuttos and beautifully compliments the sweet fruit.  You’ll most likely find the ham ready-sliced in packets in the deli section of the grocery store.  Make sure to remove the package from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving so it comes up to room temperature.  If it’s too cold, the delicate flavors won’t come through.  
  • Customize the salad:  the ingredients are suggestions.  You can add/swap any ingredients for your favorite veggies and fruits or omit ingredients altogether.
  • Add greens:  bulk up the salad by adding greens such as baby arugula or a spring salad mix. If you add greens, you’ll want to make additional dressing (use the arrows next to the servings in the recipe card to adjust the measurements), or swap some of the lettuce for some of the bread.  The greens should be added just be serving and not marinated for the 20-30 minutes.
  • Add protein:  make the Panzanella even more of a meal by adding simple shredded rotisserie chicken, balsamic chicken, lemon basil chicken,  grilled shrimp, marinated flank steak, leftover steak or hard-boiled eggs.
  • Make it dairy free:  omit the cheese, the rest of the ingredients are dairy free.
  • Make it vegan:  omit the cheese and Parma ham; substitute your favorite sweetener for the honey.
  • Make it gluten free: use your favorite gluten free bread.
  • Scale the recipe.  This recipe is easy to scale up for large crowds/potlucks or down in half for lunches by using the up and down arrow in the recipe card next to the servings.
  • Serve with:  Panzanella is delicious served alongside any of your favorite summer fare from grilled chicken and steak to burgers and kebabs. It’s equally delicious alongside more cozy dishes like soup or stews, creamy pastas, Italian classics or cheesy melted Italian sandwiches.  See the post for lots of serving suggestions/recipes.
  • Storage:  the bread salad is best served fresh because the bread will become softer the longer it sits.  If you don’t mind soggy bread, store leftover Panzanella in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 

Make Ahead

Yes, you can prep all of the ingredients for the Panzanella Salad ahead of time but keep the dressing separate.  Here’s how to make ahead:
  • Toast bread: toast fresh bread up to 24 hours ahead of time and store in an airtight container on the counter. 
  • Prepare salad ingredients:  chop all of the salad ingredients and layer in a large serving bowl in this order so the ingredients don’t become soggy:  tomatoes, onions, sweet fruit, peaches, cucumbers, mozzarella, basil.  Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to add the dressing.
  • Dressing:  can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
  • Serve:  now all you have to do is combine, let the bread salad rest for 20-30 minutes, then devour!

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2 Comments

  1. Ramya says

    Will be making this soon can i use vegan cheese / mushrooms and maple syrup as am a vegan i never had salad before i love italian food sooooooooooooo much perfect for my after office meals will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

    • Jen says

      Thanks Ramya, I think you’ll love it!