Panzanella

Got stale bread? Make panzanella!

Panzanella is an Italian salad made with stale, or at the very least, leftover bread, and you wouldn’t believe how wonderful it is. I’m sure its origins are peasant-based, because the peasant approach to making meals is all about using everything available to you, without any waste. And that means you never throw away old bread. You just turn it into a salad!

Besides bread, other additions include tomatoes, plus oil and vinegar. Some panzanellas get more involved with the inclusion of cucumbers, olives, and capers. I sometimes like to add some spinach leaves as well. And I have added feta cheese, although at that point it almost becomes a Greek-inspired salad. Italian or Greek, it doesn’t matter. It’s all good!

So today my panzanella is made from leftover sourdough bread, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella pearls, purple onion, and lots of basil. No recipe is needed!

Panzanella

Leftover bread or stale bread*
Vinegar, I used red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Cherry tomatoes, sliced
Cucumber, de-seeded and sliced
Small purple onion, sliced
Mozzarella pearls, if you want to include cheese
Pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in halves
Salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Fresh basil

First, break up the bread or slice it into cubes.

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Place the bread in a serving bowl. Sprinkle generously with vinegar to soften up the bread. This is especially important if using stale bread. See * below for more information on this.

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Add the tomatoes, and sprinkle on some salt and more vinegar.

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Then add the cucumbers, which you can season with salt as well.

Add the purple onions, and the mozzarella pearls.

Add the olives. Season well with salt and pepper, and give everything a toss. Add more vinegar and olive oil as necessary. (If you prefer, you can certainly use a pre-made vinaigrette instead of just using oil and vinegar.)

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Before serving, sprinkle with baby basil leaves, or a chiffonade of basil.

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The salad can also sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours for the flavors to combine. Just toss gently once before serving. The salad is prettier if the bread remains somewhat in intact pieces.

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* Typically, actual stale bread is used for this salad. Then it’s dipped in water to soften. I really don’t like that technique, even though it works. I love vinegar, so I just add a lot of vinegar to the bread before completing the salad. Also, my bread was only a couple of days old, and not stale. I could have dried it out in the oven, but I was fine with the bread as is. Some people grill the bread first before slicing it, but I personally don’t like this option because grilled bread can really tear up the roof of my mouth. But as you can see, there are many options

note: If you have leftover bread but don’t want panzanella, throw it in a food processor and make bread crumbs! They freeze really well.

By Published On: June 17th, 201432 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

32 Comments

  1. thesinglegourmetandtraveller June 17, 2014 at 8:15 AM - Reply

    I love panzanella – so brilliant for the summer – and yours looks wonderful :) I sometimes make a middle east version with flatbread, fattoush. It’s amazing how good leftovers can be!!

    • chef mimi June 17, 2014 at 8:24 AM - Reply

      I wonder if all countries that involve bread have some sort of panzanella as part of their regional cuisine? I’m thinking Japan does not…

  2. sallybr June 17, 2014 at 8:52 AM - Reply

    I don’t think I ever discarded old bread – normally we cut as croutons and freeze, when the time comes for Caesar salad (which we have probably twice/week), a little bag comes out of the freezer to play. If I have a lot of leftover bread I might go for bread crumbs, but that’s rare.

    we tend to slice and freeze slices of bread after a couple of days it’s baked

    I like panzanella but never make it at home, it is indeed perfect for summer – I like the version with flat bread, fatoush too

    • chef mimi June 18, 2014 at 6:51 AM - Reply

      Bread and salad just go together perfectly!!!

  3. dishnthekitchen June 17, 2014 at 10:21 AM - Reply

    Nice! I just happen to have all of those ingredients in my kitchen. Love that wooden bowl!

  4. Three Well Beings June 17, 2014 at 11:37 AM - Reply

    First, let me also remark on your beautiful salad bowl. :-) A friend of mine has served this salad to me before and it was memorable. But she is vegan, so no cheese! I love the addition of the lovely little pearls of goodness. I am really plesed to have a good recipe. It sounds basic, but sometimes following a tried and true recipe just gives an added edge. I can’t wait! I look forward to it.

    • chef mimi June 17, 2014 at 12:50 PM - Reply

      Thanks! They’re made from roots, and it was on that day, during the photography session, that I discovered that this specific bowl leaks!!! Oil and vinegar everywhere!

  5. Francesca June 17, 2014 at 11:47 AM - Reply

    Looking gorgeous, Mimi! Totally my kind of salad and perfect for the hot season!

    • chef mimi June 17, 2014 at 12:52 PM - Reply

      It’s true. It’s a very refreshing salad!

  6. StefanGourmet June 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM - Reply

    I’ve been planning to make panzanella and do a post on it. I love it and you are so right it’s peasant food. If you ‘marinate’ sliced tomatoes in the dressing for a bit, they will release a lot of juices to soak the bread in. Great post!

  7. dianeskitchentable June 17, 2014 at 12:51 PM - Reply

    Stale bread? Of course I have stale bread, sometimes even green bread which doesn’t seem to stop my husband! This is such a creative use of stale (not green) bread which I will have to try. I’ve never understood though why you would take stale or dried ingredients and soak in water. By the way, that wood bowl you have is sensational! Love it.

    • chef mimi June 17, 2014 at 12:53 PM - Reply

      Thanks. The bowls are inexpensive, from Horchow, they’re made from roots. I don’t get the water thing either…

  8. Dolly Rubiano June 17, 2014 at 2:16 PM - Reply

    Lovely salad! Didn’t know I could use stale bread. Definitely worth a try. Can I use balsamic vinegar instead?

    • chef mimi June 17, 2014 at 2:17 PM - Reply

      Of course! It will change the color, of course.

  9. chefceaser June 17, 2014 at 3:16 PM - Reply

    Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.

    • chef mimi June 30, 2014 at 10:40 AM - Reply

      Some how this went into my spam folder! I’m so sorry! Thank you for the reblog!!!

  10. Bunny Eats Design June 17, 2014 at 4:16 PM - Reply

    Stunning bowls! I also love the mozzarella pearls, they are so pretty.

    • chef mimi June 17, 2014 at 5:04 PM - Reply

      I’m so glad I can buy those pearls locally now. They really are fun!

  11. ladyredspecs June 17, 2014 at 6:20 PM - Reply

    Delicious, tomatoes basil and bread! I don’t soak the bread when I make panzanella, as the juices flow out of the tomatoes while the salad rests, then the bread soaks up the juices. Panzanella is a big favourite in summer!

    • chef mimi June 18, 2014 at 6:53 AM - Reply

      It’s a perfect salad, especially in the summer. I’ll make it again with ripe tomatoes from the garden, hopefully soon!

  12. Amanda Embry June 17, 2014 at 8:52 PM - Reply

    Looks great. I haven’t had kalamata olives in awhile, no one in my family but me likes them. :( We often have bread past its prime, though, so they may have to suffer through it.

    • chef mimi June 18, 2014 at 6:53 AM - Reply

      My husband won’t eat olives or anything pickled. It’s so annoying!!!

  13. apuginthekitchen June 18, 2014 at 6:02 PM - Reply

    My favorite salad and I almost always have some stale bread on hand, now that summer is here and the tomatoes will be or are here soon this will be one of the first things I make.

  14. Conor Bofin June 19, 2014 at 8:50 AM - Reply

    Lovely salad and a lovely wooden bowl Mimi.

    • chef mimi June 19, 2014 at 9:22 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much Conor! That means a lot!

      • Conor Bofin June 19, 2014 at 12:08 PM

        The bowl reminds me of our own fruit bowl. It is ‘spalted’ beech ( beech with a black grain caused by partial decomposition throughout). It is beautiful. One does not realise when getting such stuff that it is a lifetime pleasure.

      • chef mimi June 19, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        That sounds beautiful. This one is made from tree roots, non-specific, and on this day I discovered that it leaks!!! I never thought to look inside and inspect for cracks!

  15. Mary Frances June 19, 2014 at 9:57 AM - Reply

    I hate wasting food, so this sounds like a great recipe. I like that it doesn’t require any measuring too. So simple!

    • chef mimi June 19, 2014 at 10:29 AM - Reply

      No measuring! Just add your favorite ingredients and create the ratio that you want!

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