Panzanella Toscana is a bread-based salad native to Tuscany. It’s made with toasted crusty bread like sourdough, tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, and cucumbers and drizzled in a red wine vinaigrette, making for a hearty lunch or dinner.
What is Panzanella Toscana?
Panzanella Toscana (also known as pan molle) is a summer salad eaten cold. It can be served as a lunch or light dinner, but it is often found as an appetizer in local restaurants.
It is based around Tuscan bread, tomatoes and other vegetables, herbs and spices. Tuscan bread was historically flavorless and hard since salt was hard to come by for Tuscans due to war and high taxes.
Since you most likely can’t get your hands on Tuscan bread, this recipe can use any crusty bread.
Combined with a tanty red wine vinaigrette dressing, this is the perfect salad recipe to whip out on those warm summer afternoons and evenings to feel just a local Tuscan.
Why Try This Panzanella Toscana Recipe
- Delightful textures: there is so much going on with this salad – the chewy bread contrasts wonderfully with the juicy tomatoes and the slight crunch of the bell pepper and red onion.
- Healthy ingredients: there are multiple portions of vegetables in this salad. The tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers are all nutritional powerhouses and the salad dressing is limited in sugar and salt. Lots of healthy extra virgin olive oil is used, but even this can be adjusted if you want to lower your calories.
- Fresh flavors: the fresh basil adds some subtle sweetness along with the tomatoes whilst the crusty bread holds all the fresh spices and tangy touches from the red wine vinaigrette.
How to Make This Panzanella Toscana
Step 1: Drain the tomatoes: Cut the tomatoes into small pieces, then place them in a colander with a bowl underneath. Sprinkle some salt, then toss the tomatoes to cover with the set. Set aside and let the tomatoes drain. This should take around 20 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes.
Step 2: Cook the bread: Preheat the oven to 350F or 180C. Cut the bread into small cubes and add to a baking sheet. Drizzle some of the olive oil and toss everything together until the bread is coated in the olive oil. Cook the bread for 20-30 minutes until it starts to golden in color, but not brown.
Step 3: Prepare the vegetables: Dice the red pepper and cucumbers and cut the red onion in thin slices.
Step 4: Prepare the vinaigrette: Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic clove, oregano, dried basil, dijon mustard, salt, sugar and black pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Step 5: Prepare the salad and serve: Once the bread is cooked and the tomatoes are drained, add the bread, tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber and onion to a bowl and mix thoroughly with the vinaigrette until everything is coated. Serve with some chopped basil for garnish.
Ingredients (+ Substitions)
- Olive oil: We always recommend extra virgin olive oil within our recipes as we’re big fans of the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits.
- Tomatoes: You can use whatever tomatoes you have on hand. If you have smaller tomatoes like cherry or plum tomatoes, you can just cut these in half. Larger tomatoes should be cut further.
- Bread: Traditionally stale Tuscan bread is used. However, any crust bread such as French bread, sourdough or ciabatta works well. You simply want a bread that will absorb the dressing flavors.
- Bell pepper: Any peppers will do, but I like red or yellow peppers for their sweeter taste.
- Cucumber: Any summer salad but can benefit from cucumber. Although they are optional, they add a lovely refreshing taste and a nice health kick to boost.
- Red onion: This adds crunch, a bit of sweetness and a touch of tang to the salad. One quarter per person seems to be a good amount, but feel free to adjust depending on your preference.
- Fresh basil: Basil leaves have a sweet, pungent and slightly spicy flavor that works really well in all kinds of salads, but is a staple in panzanella salads. Chop the basil leaves well before serving them with the salad. The fresh basil adds some bright color and flavor
- Red wine vinaigrette: Red wine vinegar combined with olive oil and other ingredients like garlic, oregano, dried basil, and dijon mustard make for this red wine vinaigrette. It adds a tangy touch to the salad whilst being full of flavor with the herbs and garlic.
Oven-Cooked Bread vs Stale Bread
Traditionally the bread used in a Panzanella salad is stale. However, this was more feasible in older times in Tuscony because the bread was made without salt (due to taxes
Without salt, this local type of bread only needs a day before it goes stale. However, you’ll probably find it difficult to find this salt-free rustic bread outside of the region, you may need to give it a few days extra if using other bread.
These methods of making the bread stale are very time-consuming and not as practical today, which is why most recipes will simply require you to cook whatever crusty bread you have on hand in the oven instead.
More Mediterranean Salad Recipes
Try these for some delicious, yet healthy, Mediterranean-inspired salad recipes:
- Moroccan Zaalouk (Roasted Eggplant Tomato Salad)
- Ensalada Rusa (Spanish Potato Salad)
- Moroccan Couscous Salad
- Mediterranean Chickpea Quinoa Salad
- 600g tomatoes, halved or cut into small pieces
- 200g sourdough, or any other crusty bread
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- ½ cucumber, diced (optional)
- ½ red onion,thinly sliced
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil, for drizzling on bread
- Handful of basil leaves, chopped
For the dressing
- ¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- Pinch of sugar
- Pinch of black pepper
- Drain the tomatoes: cut the tomatoes into small pieces, then place them in a colander with a bowl underneath. Sprinkle some salt, then toss the tomatoes to cover with the set. Set aside and let the tomatoes drain. This should take around 20 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes.
- Cook the bread: preheat the oven to 350F or 180C. Cut the bread into small cubes and add to a baking sheet. Drizzle some of the olive oil and toss everything together until the bread is coated in the olive oil. Cook the bread for 20-30 minutes until it starts to golden in color, but not brown.
- Prepare the vegetables: dice the red pepper and cucumbers and cut the red onion in thin slices.
- Prepare the vinaigrette: combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic clove, oregano, dried basil, dijon mustard, salt, sugar and black pepper in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Prepare the salad and serve: once the bread is cooked and the tomatoes are drained, add the bread, tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber and onion to a bowl and mix thorough with the vinaigrette until everything is coated. Serve with some chopped basil for garnish.
- Using the drained juices from the tomato: Tuscans often use the liquid from the tomatoes to form part of the dressing. Combine it with some olive oil and red wine vinegar for an even easier dressing.
Amount Per Serving Calories 574Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 0mgSodium 1627mgCarbohydrates 85gFiber 8gSugar 16gProtein 18g
Want More Delicious, Mediterranean Style Recipes?
If you’ve cooked this recipe, be sure to leave a comment or review! But if you’re looking for more: