This recipe is a Greek take on the classic Italian bread and tomato salad, with loads of fresh oregano, mint and basil as well as hearty beans to make this a proper lunch or light supper. Panzanella is the ultimate picnic and lunch box salad, actually getting better as it waits. Mediterranean, colorful, and so very good for body and soul.
Panzanella is as much a celebration of the exquisite taste and utility of the tomato as it is a way of using up good but stale bread. Known largely as a cunning way of transforming a spare hunk of bread into a hearty but fresh-tasting dish, panzanella – bread and tomato salad – is quite simply a stunner of a supper. Whether eaten in a slightly overcast Scottish garden, bees buzzing amongst the roses and sweet peas, or in Tuscany, on a battered trestle table under a canopy of grape-laden vines, panzanella is a perfect summer, throw-together salad.
If I wasn’t wanting and needing to make other recipes I would quite happily settle on this colour-rammed salad pretty much all summer long, adding and subtracting ingredients as required, and desired. There are just so many ways a basic panzanella can go – add sliced, hard-cooked eggs or cooled, cooked beans for a shot of protein; have a mix of roasted and fresh veggies (like I’ve done here); change up the herbs; use citrus instead of the usual sharp vinegar. It’s all okay.
— Unless you ask an Italian mama. Don’t ask just do, is my advice.
— And definitely don’t tell her that her precious panzanella has gone Greek!
Why you will love this summer-kissed salad
1. It is a great way to use stale bread. In fact, don’t bother making this UNLESS you have stale bread. You could dry bread out in a low oven, but seriously, just let a good, artisan loaf (ie preservative- and additive-free) go a bit dry, cube it up and toss it in. That is literally what you do. Oh, and the better the bread, the better the salad.
2. Panzanella is just the best picnic salad. You put the whole thing together, dressing and all, pack it away and hit the road or trail. After you’ve had your swim in the sea or flung your blanket on the forest floor, tuck into this salad and feel just a bit smug at your cleverness. Soggy sandwiches and delicate leafy salads will never be on your picnic menu again.
3. It’s helluva healthy. There is nothing in here not to like. Not only is it flipping delicious and satisfying, this juicy salad is a nutritional wunderkind. Even that bread – good stuff, whole grain and additive-free – is a healthy part of this recipe. Ripest tomatoes and peppers, olive oil, best vinegar, garlic, best bread (albeit stale), fresh herbs, crunchy green beans, red onion, a few plucks of Kalamata olive, creamy beans. Irresistible.
4. It’s flexible. This bread and tomato salad can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. You can go kitchen sink or ascetic monk and it will be good. Better than good. Just make sure your (top notch) bread is stale, tomatoes just picked (or near as dammit), your olive oil extra virgin and your acid sings both sweet and sharp.
Have you had Panzanella? What are your tips for making and eating it?
Greek-style PanzanellaServings: 4-6
This recipe is a Greek take on the classic Italian bread and tomato salad, with loads of fresh oregano, mint and basil as well as hearty beans to make this a proper lunch or light supper. Panzanella is the ultimate picnic and lunch box salad, actually getting better as it waits. Mediterranean. and so very good for body and soul. xx
100g (3.5 ounces) stale best bread – gluten-free is fine
1 kg (about 2 lbs) ripest tomatoes – a mix of varieties and sizes is nice
- 1 tsp salt plus extra as required
- 1 each of red and orange peppers
- 1/4-1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and placed in a small bowl of cold water to tame them
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 tbsp best extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled, crushed and minced
- 150g (5.3 ounces) cooked beans, such as cannellini or borlotti
- 8 Kalamata olives, flesh pinched from the stone