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
- 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
- 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
- 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 1/2 tsp EACH chopped fresh oregano, parsley OR 1/2 tsp EACH dried
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 tsp EACH garlic powder, pepper
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.
- 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.
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!