Classic Panzanella


This salad originated in Tuscany as a tasty way to use the last scraps of stale bread. In this classic recipe, slices of bread are briefly soaked in cold water, squeezed dry, and added to roughly chopped tomatoes, other vegetables, olive oil, and vinegar.


  • 1 medium red onion (about 6 ounces), peeled and thinly sliced

  • 5 one-inch-thick slices 1-to 4-day-old stale Tuscan-style bread

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt

  • 2 pounds ripe beefsteak tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks

  • 4 Kirby cucumbers (about 12 ounces), peeled and sliced

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves


  1. Fill a bowl with enough cold water to cover onion slices. Let onion soak about 30 minutes, changing the water three or four times. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl or dish. Cover bread with cold water, and let stand until the bread is softened and heavy with water, about 10 minutes.

  2. Squeeze the bread between your palms to remove as much water as possible.

  3. Arrange bread on a double layer of paper towels. Cover with another double layer of paper towels, and press down to extract any remaining water. Remove top layer of towels, and sprinkle bread with about 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside for 5 minutes. Using fingers, pluck bread into bite-size pieces, and transfer to the dish containing the onions.

  4. Add the tomatoes and cucumbers.

  5. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the salad; season with salt and pepper.

  6. Tear the basil leaves in half; add to the bowl. Gently toss to combine. Set aside in a cool place, 30 to 45 minutes. Toss, and serve.

Cook's Notes

Try adding cubed fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, roasted bell peppers, sliced fresh fennel, or capers. Experiment using other in-season vegetables.

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