Crispy Summer Panzanella Salad

The flavors of an Italian summer in one salad. Italian bread is toasted and tossed with heirloom tomatoes, fresh veggies and a mustard vinaigrette for a crisp summer panzanella salad. Plus, this panzanella salad has no cheese so it’s a great option for the vegans in your life. You’ll want to make this one all summer long!

white bowl filled with tomatoes, basil leaves, toasted bread cubes, cucumbers and peppers.

The first time I had panzanella salad was in Tuscany. The bread was chewy in the best way and the tomatoes were so juicy they had to have come straight from the garden. This crispy summer panzanella salad is an homage to Italy with juicy heirloom tomatoes, toasted bread (thanks to a tip from Ina Garten‘s panzanella recipe), and bright vegetables.

I’ve since gone down a panzanella rabbit hole with this ah-may-zing zippy peach and chicken panzanella salad…ooo and a roasted veggie panzanella…the dressings alone are epic!

Other easy Italian recipes like this you’ll ♥️: Serve this alongside a pasta with summer tomato marinara sauce or make a 3 salad plate with fresh arugula salad and a creamy pasta salad. Such a great meal!

What is panzanella?

Traditionally, panzanella is an Italian salad made of stale bread and tomatoes. To help “rehydrate” the bread, Italian cooks would soak the bread in water, squeeze out the excess and then chop it up. The bread would be tossed with tomatoes, other vegetables that were available, some onions and drizzled with an extra-virgin olive oil dressing.

What makes this a summer panzanella?

a white pedestal with three heirloom tomatoes and one tomato in the foreground.

Summer tomatoes, my friend.

That means heirloom tomatoes, ripe-from-the-garden tomatoes, cherry tomatoes. All the tomatoes you have on hand. You’ll see heirloom cherry tomatoes here but any or all will work!

Panzanella salad ingredients

loaf of bread and vegetables for a panzanella salad

One of the best things about panzanella salad (in addition to how good it is) is that it’s a great way to use up a abundance of vegetables or leftover bread. Here’s what this recipe for panzanella calls for:

  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes. I used the Wild Wonder variety of tomatoes you can pick up at most grocery stores or the heirloom variety at Trader Joe’s.
  • Variety of peppers. I used red, orange and yellow because they feel like summer and are sweeter. Use any you like!
  • Cubed, toasted Italian bread. My favorite bread currently comes from Ace Bakery. If you have the chance to try it, don’t hesitate!
  • Radishes. For a little zesty heat and bite.
  • Mustard vinaigrette. Making homemade salad dressing is so easy and leaves more room in the fridge for other condiments and things.

Best bread for panzanella

Any leftover stale country-style, artisan or Italian focaccia bread would be perfect for panzanella. And it’s really ok if the bread isn’t stale or leftover as we are crisping it up by toasting it.

Step by step instructions

black skillet with toasted bread cubes and wooden paddle.
white bowl with peppers, cucumbers, radishes, peppers and tomatoes with a pan and wooden spoon.
overhead shot of oil and mustard for salad dressing on dark background.
white bowl with cut up vegetables and cubed bread and salad dressing in a bowl.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast salted bread cubes in olive oil until golden. Set aside.
  • Chop up all the veggies and place in a large bowl where you can easily toss the salad.
  • Whisk the salad dressing ingredients until emulsified and blended.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad a little at a time, tossing as you go.

Make ahead tips

  • You can make the toast the bread ahead and leave in the pan or lay on a baking sheet lightly covered with plastic wrap or a towel until ready to use.
  • The dressing can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.
  • Toss 1/2 the dressing over the salad, reserving the other half for right before serving.

Vegetable ideas for bread salad

woman with blue apron holding a board with cut vegetables and wide bowl for salad dressing.

Have a packed-full vegetable crisper? The best vegetables for panzanella are ones that don’t have to be cooked but certainly, if you’re up for it, blanch some up for panzanella. Here are some good ones:

  • Onions. Red onions especially would be great in this recipe.
  • Zucchini or yellow squash. They’ll soak up all the yummy vinaigrette.
  • Cooked green beans. The only downside is you have to cook them up.
  • Steamed asparagus.

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


closeup of panzanella salad being scooped by an antique silver spoon in white bowl.
5 from 2 votes

Easy Summer Panzanella Salad

The flavors of an Italian summer in one salad. Italian bread is toasted and tossed with heirloom tomatoes, fresh veggies and a mustard vinaigrette for a crisp summer panzanella salad. Plus, this panzanella salad has no cheese so it's a great option for the vegans in your life. You'll want to make this one all summer long!

Ingredients
 

For the bread:

For the dressing

Instructions

Make the croutons first:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add in the croutons and sprinkle with salt. Toss until golden, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat to a bowl and then toss with parmesan cheese.

For dressing

  • Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small measuring cup.

Assembly

  • To a large bowl, add the vegetables and croutons. Drizzle with dressing and toss until combined. Check for flavor and adjust seasoning as needed.

Notes

Make ahead tips
  • You can make the toast the bread ahead and leave in the pan or lay on a baking sheet lightly covered with plastic wrap or a towel until ready to use.
  • The dressing can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.
  • Toss 1/2 the dressing over the salad, reserving the other half for right before serving.
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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