Panzanella Salad

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Check out our favorite Panzanella Salad with totally addictive garlic croutons, loads of fresh veggies, creamy mozzarella pearls, and a simple tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

If you don’t have access to fresh veggies, but you’re still craving the goodness of a Panzanella, try this roasted veggie salad.

Overhead image of the Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

If you’ve never heard of Panzanella salad, it’s a chopped salad with bread and tomatoes added to it. It is often topped with olive oil and vinegar dressing and is very popular in central Italy. 

While my recipe is not authentic by any means, it’s hands down the best Panzanella salad I’ve ever had (and I order them as often as possible!). I mean, bread in a salad?! Why wouldn’t you order that?!

It’s also one of my husband’s favorites, which doesn’t surprise me, because he’s obsessed with sourdough bread. If my husband hasn’t made a fresh loaf (one of his hobbies!), I pick up a loaf of sourdough bread when I’m at the grocery store. He (with some help from me and the boys) can finish a loaf at record speeds.

On the rare occasion the sourdough isn’t eaten as quickly, it’s absolutely perfect for this salad.

Process shots: making sourdough croutons for Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad Tips

The optimal ratio for a perfect Panzanella salad is 1/3 bread and 2/3rds the other good stuff! Below are a few tips for making this the best possible salad:

  • Add the fresh basil right before serving so it doesn’t get wilted and begin to brown. In Italy, they rip basil, which keeps it fresher for longer. You can certainly rip the leaves, but I typically chiffonade them in the name of getting the salad on the table quicker. (See “quick tip” below.)
  • You can use whatever bread you have, as long as it’s not crustless bread (no brioche or challah). This Panzanella salad tastes the best with bread that has a crunchy exterior and soft interior.
  • You can cut the bread, but the best Panzanella salads are made by tearing the bread into cubes. That way the dressing can get into all the uneven pieces of the bread.
  • The fresher and riper the veggies, the better this salad tastes. Nothing like garden-fresh tomatoes in Panzanella!

QUICK TIP

I like to stack the basil leaves in a pile and then roll them up tightly (like a cigar). Thinly slice the cigar of basil to get a perfect chiffonade (visual here).

Making the dressing for Panzanella.

Panzanella Salad Ingredients

  • Fresh sweet corn. More on this ingredient below.
  • Cherry tomatoes. While any tomatoes will work, we love the sweetness and juiciness of cherry tomatoes. I like using a medley pack of cherry tomatoes (in hues of orange, red, and yellow) to add a nice vibrant color to the salad. If you have access to garden-fresh tomatoes, use those!
  • Mini mozzarella pearls. The mozzarella pearls are fun, but not entirely necessary. Larger mozzarella balls can be used instead– just cut them into quarters first. Alternatively, block mozzarella will work too. I recommend cutting block mozzarella into small 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Sourdough bread. We love sourdough bread best to make the bread cubes in this salad. I like tossing the bread with olive oil, melted butter, salt, pepper, garlic, and a little Italian seasoning before baking them. These bread cubes are downright addictive! Helpful hint: make extra for snacking.
  • Fresh avocado. The avocado lends an amazing creamy texture to this salad, so wait to make this salad for when you have access to perfectly ripe avocados
  • Fresh basil. The basil adds complexity and sweetness to this salad that balances the acidity in the dressing. 

Let’s talk corn

There are a few different options for preparing the corn for this Panzanella salad. We actually prefer the corn cut right off the cob (raw or uncooked). It’s totally safe this way and has a slightly different taste and texture — a bit crunchier and surprisingly sweet. Be sure you are using sweet corn — the freshest you can find if enjoying it raw (for flavor purposes).

If you prefer it cooked, here are some options:

  • Grill the corn on an outdoor grill until lightly charred all over. See the “quick tip” box below.
  • Grill the corn on an indoor grill pan until lightly charred all over.

QUICK TIP

How to grill corn: Peel back husks and remove the silk. Rub vegetable or olive oil on all sides of the corn and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place on heated grill (400-450 degrees F) and rotate every 3-4 minutes or until charred, about 12 minutes total. This also works on a grill pan!

Process shots: assembling Panzanella salad

Panzanella Salad FAQs

1Where is Panzanella salad from?

Panzanella comes from the Tuscan region of Italy.

2What kind of dish is Panzanella?

Panzanella is a chopped salad that typically combines croutons (from leftover/stale bread). Authentic versions typically include tomatoes and onions, anchovies, and some sort of olive oil and vinegar dressing. A Panzanella salad is very popular in the summer!

The name is a blend of “pane,” which is Italian for bread, and “zanella,” a deep platter that is perfect for serving.

This is not an authentic Italian Panzanella salad, but seriously delicious nonetheless! Feel free to tweak this recipe with your favorite veggie add-ins.

3Does Panzanella keep?

Unfortunately, no. Not only does the cold fridge temperature ruin the tomato’s texture, but the avocado will also brown. Beyond that, the bread will become too soaked in dressing and being to disintegrate into an unpleasant texture. This salad can be made ahead of time, but ingredients should not be combined until right before eating.

4What goes with Panzanella salad?

We love Panzanella in the summer because it pairs so nicely with just about anything off the grill. We love it will grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, salmon, etc.

Panzanella is also delicious with a whole roasted (rotisserie-style) chicken.

Up close overhead image of the dressed Panzanella Salad

Converting Panzanella Salad Into A Main Dish

We love this salad with thinly sliced grilled chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken added in.

We’ve also enjoyed it on the side with grilled flank steak (check out this Grilled Flank Steak recipe).

Storing Panzanella Salad

Panzanella doesn’t sit or store well after it’s made. The salad needs to be eaten soon after assembling; otherwise, the dressing will disintegrate the bread, the tomatoes will become overly juicy, and the avocado will brown. To make ahead: Prepare everything (except the avocado), but store ingredients separately in the fridge. Assemble the salad right before eating, adding dressing and avocado right before serving.

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Panzanella Salad

Check out our favorite Panzanella Salad with totally addictive garlic croutons, loads of fresh veggies, creamy mozzarella pearls, and a simple tangy balsamic vinaigrette.
Print Recipe

Panzanella Salad

Check out our favorite Panzanella Salad with totally addictive garlic croutons, loads of fresh veggies, creamy mozzarella pearls, and a simple tangy balsamic vinaigrette.
Course Salad
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Panzanella Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 479kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $9.84

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons (29g) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup (48g) olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Croutons

  • 1 artisan sourdough baguette, torn into small cubes (~4 cups; 220g)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: Italian seasoning, minced garlic

Salad

  • 3 cups (485g) cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered) Note 1
  • 1 cup (158g) mozzarella balls/pearls halved or quartered Note 2
  • 1 fresh corn on the cob, corn cut off (~3/4 cup; 135g) Note 3
  • 1 large avocado, sliced or chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 20 basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Optional: 1 small head of Bibb or Romaine lettuce, ripped into small pieces
  • Optional 1 small lemon

Instructions

  • CROUTONS: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust the rack to the center position. If using a baguette, cut into 1-inch slices and then tear each slice into 4-6 pieces. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, melted butter, Italian seasoning, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste (I add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper). Toss to combine and transfer to a lined sheet pan. Bake until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let fully cool.
  • DRESSING: Meanwhile, for the dressing, add all the ingredients to a wide-mouth jar. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper but you can always add more salt and pepper to the salad overall.) Shake dressing to combine and then place in the fridge to chill while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Shake the dressing well right before pouring over the salad.
  • SALAD: In a large bowl, combine the halved cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered mozzarella balls, and the raw corn kernels cut from the cob. (We love it raw and crunchy, but it's also delicious cooked on the grill!) Add the completely cooled croutons and (read instruction #5 before adding dressing) the dressing to taste-- you don't need to use all of it, add to preference. Toss the salad and let stand for about 5-10 minutes, gently tossing, until the bread absorbs the dressing.
  • SERVE: Right before serving, add the sliced or chopped avocado, basil leaves, and any additional dressing. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon if desired. Serve salad over torn lettuce leaves if desired (not necessary, but does sop up some dressing).
  • STORAGE: Panzanella doesn’t sit or store well after it’s made. Once assembled, the salad needs to be eaten soon after; otherwise, the dressing will disintegrate the bread, tomatoes will become squishy, and the avocado will brown. To make ahead: Prepare everything (except the avocado), but store ingredients separately in the fridge. Assemble the salad right before eating, adding dressing and avocado right before serving.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Tomatoes: I like using a medley pack of cherry tomatoes (in hues of orange, red, and yellow) to add a nice vibrant color to the salad. If you have access to garden-fresh tomatoes, use those!
Note 2: Mozzarella: Mini mozzarella pearls are fun, but not entirely necessary. Larger mozzarella balls can be used instead– just cut them into quarters first. Alternatively, block mozzarella will work too. I recommend cutting block mozzarella into small 1/2-inch cubes.
Note 3: Corn: There are a few different options for preparing the corn. We actually love the corn cut right off the cob (raw/uncooked). It's totally safe this way and has a slightly different taste and texture -- a bit crunchier and surprisingly sweet. Be sure you are using sweet corn -- the freshest you can find if enjoying it raw (for flavor purposes). If you aren't sure about raw corn on the cob or prefer it cooked, here are some options:
  • Grill the corn on an outdoor grill until lightly charred all over. 
  • Grill the corn on an indoor grill pan until lightly charred all over.
  • How to grill corn: Peel back husks and remove the silk. Rub vegetable or olive oil on all sides of the corn and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place on heated grill (400-450 degrees F) and rotate every 3-4 minutes or until charred, about 12 minutes total. (This also works on a grill pan!)

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 479kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 333mg | Potassium: 559mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 875IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 211mg | Iron: 3mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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The best simple panzanella salad with lots of fresh veggies and a delicious balsamic dressing chelseasmessyapron.com #salad #panzanella #tomato #corn #basil #avocado #bread #sourdough #balsamic #dressing #healthy #easy #kidfriendly #quick #dinner
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