The best panzanella salad recipe loaded with fresh veggies and topped with a delicious balsamic dressing
I was craving a caprese type salad the other day and went into my kitchen to throw something together. I started with some tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella. At that point I looked at what I had put together and thought “it needs a bit more…” A leftover corn on the cob? Yes. Avocados? Always. And then the best part: half of a slightly stale sourdough baguette. BREAD in a salad? YES.
The result? A delicious Panzanella Salad that has quickly become one of our favorites!
If you’ve never heard of a panzanella salad, it’s simply a chopped salad with bread and tomatoes added to it. It is often topped with an olive oil & vinegar dressing and is very popular in central Italy.
Since throwing together that rather impromptu salad a few weeks ago, we’ve made it countless times and I’m so excited to finally be sharing it with you all. I mean, anytime a SALAD is mostly composed of bread, it really should be made and eaten frequently 🙂
My husband claims this panzanella salad to be his favorite salad ever and I’m not surprised because he’s obsessed with sourdough bread. I grab sourdough bread just about every single time I’m at the grocery store because he and the boys can finish a loaf in record speeds.
On the rare occasion it isn’t eaten as quickly as it usually is, the slightly stale sourdough bread is absolutely perfect for this salad!
Here are a few tips for the best panzanella salad:
- The optimal ratio for a perfect panzanella salad is 1/3 bread and 2/3rds the other good stuff! It’s okay to add some lettuce – I use a few leaves of butter lettuce, but arugula would also be delicious. Add the fresh herbs RIGHT before serving so they don’t get wilted.
- You can use whatever bread you have as long as it’s not a 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 (I did for these pictures to get a more even appearance for the photos), but the best panzanella is made by tearing the bread into cubes. That way the dressing can get into all the uneven pieces of the bread. You can use stale bread OR toast fresh bread in the oven to dry it out.
More Salad Recipes:
The best simple panzanella salad with lots of fresh veggies and a delicious balsamic dressing
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 sourdough baguette, torn into small cubes (~4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup cocktail tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cup mozzarella balls (bocconcini), halved or quartered
- 1 fresh corn on the cob, corn cut off
- 1 large Hass 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
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and adjust the rack to center position. If using a baguette, cut into 1-inch slices and then tear those slices into 4-6 pieces. Place on a large sheet pan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss. Bake until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Meanwhile, for the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste; (I add 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper) you can always add more salt and pepper to the salad overall. Place dressing in a mason jar in the fridge to chill while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Shake the dressing well right before pouring over the salad.
In a large bowl, mix the halved cherry tomatoes, quartered cocktail tomatoes, halved or quartered mozzarella balls, the raw corn from the cob (we love it raw and crunchy, but it's also delicious cooked on the grill!), and ripped pieces of lettuce if desired. Add the completely cooled bread and the dressing to taste (you don't need to use all of it, add to preference) Toss the salad and let rest for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the bread absorbs the dressing.
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.