This Italian Bread Salad “Panzanella” recipe is a delicious Mediterranean salad from Tuscany that is perfect as a simple appetizer or side dish for grilling or for a quick lunch on warm days in summer! It’s also a great way to use up leftover bread!
What is Italian bread salad “Panzanella”?
Italian bread salad, also called Tuscan panzanella, is a Mediterranean salad made with stale bread and fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers and basil that’s served with a vinaigrette. It is great as a simple appetizer or as a side dish for barbecue parties and potlucks.
Traditionally, Panzanella uses stale dark Tuscan farmhouse bread or other Italian breads like ciabatta, but you can also use other leftover white bread, rolls, baguette, gluten-free bread or whatever you have on hand. If you don’t have leftover bread at home, you can also use fresh bread and toast this in a pan or oven until crispy.
While many salads are served cold, panzanella is not refrigerated before serving to retain the full flavor. The crusty bread absorbs the flavors from the garlic balsamic dressing and vegetables perfectly, making it to a very delicious salad!
What ingredients do I need?
All you need for this recipe is some bread, fresh veggies and herbs, good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a few minutes of your time.
I love having lots of different ingredients and toppings in and on my salad! Especially, the combination of tomatoes, vegan mozzarella and basil is simply amazing! But it tastes even better with olives, pine nuts and the rest of the ingredients!
However, feel free to keep the bread salad simpler by omitting the bell peppers and toppings, for example. In fact, for the basic traditional panzanella recipe, you only need 5 ingredients: Tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, basil and the aromatic vinaigrette.
Here are some notes on the ingredients and suggestions for alternatives:
- Bread: You can basically use any bread for this recipe. However, stale ciabatta or white bread would be ideal.
- Red onions: or other onions to taste. Chives and green onions are also great.
- Tomatoes: I prefer to use colorful cherry tomatoes, as they all taste different and look visually beautiful! But basically any variety of tomato will do.
- Cucumbers: I like to use mini cucumbers here because they are not as watery and crunchier. However, English cucumbers will do too.
- Bell peppers: It doesn’t matter if they are yellow, red or green – all varieties are healthy and delicious! If you don’t like peppers, you can leave them out.
- Arugula: Other types of lettuce such as lamb’s lettuce, romaine, lollo rosso or radicchio. Of course, panzanella can be served without any lettuce at all.
- Herbs: All Italian herbs like basil, oregano or thyme are suitable! I also like to add some parsley to the dressing – it’s very tasty!
- Capers and olives: for more flavor! Here I like to choose a mixture of Kalamata and green olives.
- Vinaigrette: feel free to try this balsamic dressing or make a creamy chipotle sauce dressing.
- Vegan mozzarella: However, tofu feta or vegan parmesan are also great dairy-free substitutes for regular cheese!
How to make Italian Bread salad “Panzanella”
As always, I recommend checking out this step-by-step instruction first. Then you can find the full recipe with exact quantities in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Toast the bread
To make the Italian bread salad, start by cutting the bread into pieces and toast them in a pan with a little oil over medium heat until crispy. Alternatively, you can also drizzle the bread pieces with a little oil and bake them in the oven at 356 °F (180 °C) for about 15 minutes.
Step 2: Make the vinaigrette
Now stir together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and add some salt and pepper to taste. Since the olives are quite salty, I usually do not add any salt.
Step 3: Chop the veggies and combine
Next, chop the vegetables and put them in a large bowl along with the arugula, capers, olives, chopped parsley and basil. Then add the toasted bread pieces and vinaigrette and mix gently to combine. Allow the salad to rest in your pantry for at least 30 minutes.
Step 4: Toast pine nuts and serve!
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts briefly in a pan without adding oil, stirring often, until golden-brown. Then remove and set aside.
Stir the salad again and garnish with vegan mini mozzarella, toasted pine nuts and fresh basil. Enjoy!
Storing and Meal Prep Tips
This Italian bread salad is great to make ahead of time. Then you can take it to a picnic or enjoy it for a quick summer lunch! To do this, simply place the toasted bread and salad, along with dressing, separately in sealed containers. The bread can be stored at room temperature for a week or even longer. The salad will keep in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days.
This Italian bread salad recipe is
- Quick and easy to make
- With crunchy vegetables, crusty bread and creamy vegan mozzarella cheese
- Fresh and healthy
- Perfect for spring and summer!
More easy vegan salad recipes for summer
- Mexican Pasta Salad
- Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
- Thai Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
- Vegan Caprese Pasta Salad
- Chickpea “Tuna” Salad
- Creamy Avocado Pasta
- Turkish Bulgur Salad (Kisir)
- Broccoli Salad with Yogurt Dressing
- Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Sesame Tofu
- Vegan Egg Salad
If you try this easy Panzanella recipe, please leave me a comment and a rating on how you liked it! And if you take a photo of your Italian bread salad and share it on Instagram, please tag me @biancazapatka and use the hashtag #biancazapatka because I love seeing your creations! Have fun trying it! 😊
Italian Bread Salad (Panzanella)Author:
- 7 oz (200 g) bread or ciabatta or other leftover bread
- 1 red onion cut into fine rings
- 12.3 oz (350 g) tomatoes diced or halved*
- 7 oz (200 g) cucumbers diced or sliced*
- 1 (100 g) yellow bell pepper cored, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch (50 g) arugula
- 1 tbsp capers
- 3 tbsp olives variety of your choice
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley optional
- 2 tbsp chopped basil + some whole leaves for garnish
To garnish (optional)
- vegan mozzarella
- pine nuts
*Note: As always, I recommend reading the blog post above + checking out the step-by-step pictures!
- Cut the bread into pieces and toast them in a pan with a little oil over medium heat until crispy (or drizzle with a little oil and bake in the oven at 356 °F (180 °C) for about 15 minutes).
- Mix together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and add some salt and pepper to taste (since the olives are quite salty, I usually do not add any salt).
- Chop the vegetables and put them in a large bowl along with the arugula, capers, olives, chopped parsley and basil. Then add the toasted bread pieces and vinaigrette and mix gently to combine. Allow the salad to rest in your pantry for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts briefly in a pan without adding oil, stirring often, until golden-brown. Then remove and set aside.
- Mix the salad again and garnish with vegan mini mozzarella, toasted pine nuts and fresh basil.
- I used small colorful tomatoes and mini cucumbers, but you can also use other tomatoes and English cucumber.
- More information regarding ingredient notes, recipe tips, Meal-Prep ideas as well as suggestions to keep things simpler are mentioned in the blog post above!
- The nutritional information is calculated for 1 serving of 4 without mozzarella and pine nuts.
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