Panzanella is my favorite type of salad because the star ingredient is BREAD! Yes, a bread salad! You may wonder if a recipe with zero lettuce can be called a salad, and I’m here to share the good news that it can. One of my lifelong favorite foods is bruschetta, and Panzanella shares a lot of those same flavors and textures: ripe tomatoes, good olive oil, lots of garlic, balsamic vinegar, and toasty bread. You’ll notice that there’s fresh melon in here, too, and while fruit may seem like an odd addition, it adds some much needed sweetness and heft to the salad, as well as gorgeous color. Besides the bread, my favorite part of this recipe is how the tomatoes are salted so that they release some of their juices, and then that fresh tomato juice is used as the base for the vinaigrette for the entire dish. It’s a perfect example of maximizing your ingredients, and there’s no better way to enjoy summer’s best tomatoes! This dish is also the most ideal way to use up day-old bread that’s otherwise headed for the trash, and is perfect for a summer picnic or a sunny potluck with friends!
1. Panzanella Etymology
The name is believed to be a portmanteau of “pane”, Italian for “bread,” and “zanella”, a deep plate in which it is traditionally served.
2. Salty Tomatoes?
The technique of salting the tomatoes before they’re mixed into the salad serves two purposes: it seasons the tomatoes correctly, since they have time to absorb the salt, and it makes them release some of their juices, which are then added to the vinaigrette, for even more tomato flavor in the dish.
3. Tips for Make Ahead
This dish is excellent for entertaining because it’s both very beautiful AND very delicious! If you’d like to make it a day or some hours ahead of when it’s being served, assemble all of the components except for the toasted bread and the vinaigrette. Then, right before serving, mix the bread into the other ingredients, pour over the vinaigrette, and gently toss everything together.
Tomato Melon Panzanella
- 1 large rustic sourdough boule cut into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes cored and cut into 1-inch wedges (about 1 pound 3/4 pounds, 3 ½ cups)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 2 garlic cloves microplaned or finely minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 cup melon such as cantaloupe or honeydew, cut into 1-inch pieces
- ¾ cup loosely packed basil large leaves roughly torn (about ½ ounce)
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Add bread to a sheet tray and bake for 15 minutes, or until bread has dried out, but not browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- While bread is in oven, set a colander over a large mixing bowl. Add tomatoes to colander and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes have drained any excess liquid. Once tomatoes have drained, set them aside and reserve tomato liquid.
- Next, make vinaigrette. Using reserved tomato liquid, add garlic and balsamic and whisk to combine. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed. Set aside.
- To the mixing bowl, add tomatoes, bread, melon, basil, red onions and mozzarella and stir to fully combine into vinaigrette. Allow flavors to marry, at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to redistribute dressing. Serve immediately.