The Best Summer Panzanella
This post may contain affiliate links. Please check our privacy and disclosure policy.
A delicious summer Panzanella salad loaded with crispy bread cubes, juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, and the most delicious dressing! You can customize it with pretty much any vegetable you like! The best way to eat up summer’s bounty!
A combination of summers’ most delicious bounties all come together in one bowl! We start with juicy, ripe, fresh tomatoes. Then we’ll crisp up garlic-infused bread, and toss it all in a light and refreshing oil and vinegar dressing.
It’s the perfect salad to serve if you’re looking for something fresh and flavorful to serve alongside roasted shrimp, fish, or chicken.
Traditionally, a Panzanella salad consists of thinly sliced onions, tomatoes, and stale bread. But I’ve bulked it up with a select few ingredients that pair well with the other flavors in this tomato and bread salad.
What is a panzanella salad?
A Panzanella salad is a Tuscan inspired chopped salad made with stale cubed bread, tomatoes, and fresh basil. The dressing for this salad is a simple combination of oil and vinegar mixed with salt and the juices from the tomatoes.
What ingredients do you need to make summer panzanella?
- Sourdough bread: I like to use a sourdough boule that you can easily get at most grocery stores! A country-style Italian bread also works here. Just be sure to buy your bread in advance so that it has a chance to get stale! If you’ve made my Dutch oven bread, you can even use cubes of that bread for this salad!
- Olive oil: Use a good quality olive oil if you can, we’re going to infuse some of the oil with garlic for the bread, and the rest will be used to dress the salad.
- Garlic: You’ll need a few smashed cloves so we can use it to infuse into the olive oil. You’ll also need to mince up a clove so we can use it in the dressing.
- Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese adds nuttiness and a crisp texture to the bread. It also adds a delicious flavor to the panzanella salad.
- Seasonings: We’re using salt, pepper, sugar, and dried oregano to help flavor the dressing.
- Red wine vinegar: The dressing for this salad is pretty simple; it’s a combination of vinegar, olive oil, and the juices from the tomato.
- Red onions: Thinly sliced red onions add just the right amount of flavor to the salad.
- Cucumber: The cucumber is optional, but I like to remove the seeds and cut into thin slices so that you get a little bit in each bite
- Arugula: The pepperiness of arugula adds the right amount of flavor and helps balance the other flavors in the salad. It’s not something that’s used traditionally, but I do like to add it as it bulks up the salad.
- Fresh basil: Nothing goes better with tomatoes than a handful of fresh basil!
How to quickly make fresh bread stale for a recipe:
Suppose you don’t have stale bread on hand. You can easily make fresh bread stale by baking it in the oven after you’ve cubed it. Place the cubes on a baking tray – no need to spray it with oil. Allow bread cubes to toast and dry out for 10 minutes on 350ºF. Then you can proceed with the recipe as if you had stale bread all along.
How to make the most delicious panzanella salad:
- BREAD: Add a generous drizzle of olive oil to a cold pan along with the smashed garlic cloves and let the oil heat through on the lowest setting so that the garlic infuses right into the oil. Once the garlic cloves start sizzling, you can add in the cubed bread. Toss the bread around in the pan and spray it with cooking spray, tossing and flipping to coat all the bread evenly. Sauce the bread for 9-12 minutes or until it starts to turn golden brown. Then, sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and continue to cook until the cheese melts and adheres to the bread. Remove to a sheet pan and allow the bread cubes to cool completely before using it in the salad.
- TOMATOES: Add the sliced tomatoes to a large bowl along with a generous glug of olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and all the seasonings. Allow the tomatoes to marinate for at least 15 minutes in this prepared dressing.
- ASSEMBLE: Taste the dressing and adjust with additional salt or pepper if it needs it. Add the bread to the tomatoes along with the sliced red onions, cucumber slices, and basil. Toss the salad before adding the arugula. Then, add the arugula and toss it again. Adjust with additional salt if it needs it. Serve immediately so everything is fresh.
Why do you start in a cold pan with cold oil and garlic?
Starting in a cold pan allows us to infuse the garlic flavor into the olive oil. Really take your time here; you don’t want the garlic to burn. Heat it through on the lowest heat setting, and once the garlic starts to sizzle, you can add in the bread cubes.
What is the best kind of pan to use for crisping up the bread?
I suggest using a nonstick pan when you’re frying up the bread. I find that the cheese melts and sticks to the pan if you use a stainless steel pan. It’s rare that I make this recommendation, but I did find it super tricky to maneuver when I used a stainless steel pan. This is the pan I used, works beautifully!
If I’m using cherry or grape tomatoes, do I still have to slice them? Can’t I just use them whole?
It’s important to slice tomatoes (no matter the size) when you’re making a Panzanella salad as the dressing is made with the juices of the tomato, vinegar, olive oil, and seasonings. If you don’t slice the tomatoes before adding them to the olive and vinegar mixture, you won’t be taking the dressing to it’s full potential. For this reason, it’s important to slice the tomatoes regardless of size as the juices help flavor the dressing!
What can I serve with this bread and tomato salad?
- Pan-seared salmon (just skip the sauce, or don’t – your call)
- Creamy balsamic chicken
- Spatchcock Chicken
- Pesto Chicken
- Lemon Rosemary Chicken
- Garlic butter tomato chicken
- Grilled Chicken
- Garlic Butter Baked Chicken Breasts
- 1-Hour Whole Roasted Chicken
- 3 cups cubed stale sourdough bread
- 4 cups fresh tomatoes, cut in half
- ½ cup olive oil (plus more)
- 4 cloves garlic (smash 3 + mince 1)
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon EACH: flaked sea salt AND sugar
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: dried oregano AND black pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup red onions, thinly sliced
- 7-8 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- 1 hot house cucumber, seeds removed + sliced
- 2-3 cups fresh arugula
- BREAD: Add ¼ cup of olive oil to a cold pan along with the 3 smashed garlic cloves and let it heat up over low heat. When the oil is hot enough where the garlic starts to sizzle, add the bread and kick the heat up to medium. Spray the bread with cooking spray toss and spray again so all the bread is coated. Sauté the bread, tossing and flipping as needed for 9-12 minutes or until crispy and golden. If the garlic starts browning too much at any point, just remove and discard; you don’t want that burnt garlic flavor! When the bread it golden, sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and continue to toss and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until the parmesan cooks and adheres to the bread. Remove the bread to a sheet pan or plate and allow it to cool completely before using in the salad.
- TOMATOES: Add the sliced or halved tomatoes drizzle with ¼ cup of olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, dried oregano, sugar, black pepper, and flaked sea salt. Allow the tomatoes to marinate for at least 15 minutes. This is where all that flavor develops with tomato juices! Taste the dressing and adjust to preference, you might need a bit more salt or a little more sugar. It just depends on the tomatoes!
- SALAD: Add the bread to the tomatoes along with the sliced red onions, cucumbers, and basil. Toss the salad before adding the arugula. Taste and adjust with additional salt if desired. Give it one final toss and serve immediately.
We are a participant in both the RewardStyle and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which are affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and through RewardStyle.