Panzanella is a classic Italian summer dish, originally born in the region of Tuscany. On a hot day, there’s nothing better to eat than a fresh salad prepared with good quality ingredients from the Mediterranean cuisine.
The panzanella recipe was born out of difficult times when food and money were scarce, and people couldn’t afford to let bread (or any other food) go to waste. I wish we had more of that care and respect for food today and avoid food waste as well as our parents and grandparents taught us to.
The British tomato season runs from June to October, so now it’s the time to make the most of it by eating tomatoes with the best, sweetest flavours.
Old, stale bread can be saved to make breadcrumbs (why buy them from a supermarket, when you can so easily make them at home?). Another great way to use old bread that is dry and hard is to make a Panzanella salad.
The traditional recipe calls for bread, tomatoes, olive oil and basil. However, there’s no harm in adding your favourite seasonal ingredients. In this recipe, I have added cucumbers, red onions and mozzarella cheese.
Like any other fresh salad, the panzanella is best eaten after it’s mixed and seasoned with olive oil, but you could also eat it the next day.
I made a big portion of panzanella last week and I loved it so much I ate it for both lunch and dinner. It’s an ideal lunch dish: quick and easy to make, refreshing and packed full of flavours. Take it to office, the park or the beach for a delicious summer meal!
- 400g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 200g crusty bread (a few days’ old)
- 250g fresh mozzarella
- 1/2 cucumber, chopped
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- salt and pepper
Start by soaking the onion in a small bowl with cold water and white vinegar for about 30 minutes. This will remove the strong acidic taste of the onions.
Slice the bread into chunks pieces, put it in a large bowl and soak it with water for a few minutes. The time will vary, depending on how old and hard the bread is. It should be soft enough to squeeze it in your hands to remove the water, while remaining intact. Squeeze the bread very well and set aside.
Cut the mozzarella into small cubes.
In a large salad bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cucumber, onions, mozzarella and bread. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Stir well and, just before serving, top with fresh basil leaves. I also like to add a sprinkle of dried oregano.
Prepare 30 minutes before serving to allow for the ingredients to mix well with the oil and tomato juice. Serve at room temperature.