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Simple Tomato Panzanella Salad

This Simple Tomato Panzanella Salad is made with homemade olive oil-soaked croutons, juicy tomatoes, red onion, and fresh cucumbers and basil. It is bright, refreshing and full of the freshest summer ingredients!

I vividly remember my first panzanella salad ever, which ashamedly, was only two years ago. It was the opening of Fareground, Austin’s first food hall, and I couldn’t keep staring at everyone’s burrata perched on top of beautiful tomatoes and toasted bread. I asked someone what the dish was and where to get it. I took a beeline straight to Antonelli’s Cheese to order this gorgeous dish.

One small detail, I had JUST gotten off Whole30, and this was my first non-Whole30 meal. I was excited, to say the least (or maybe, desperate).

I ate Antonelli’s panzanella salad with complete awe and amazement that something could be so beautifully juicy, fresh and flavorful. It was delightful. Until about 30 minutes later, I realized how much of a shock I put on my system, and was in pain the rest of night.

NEVERTHELESS, panzanella is still one of my favorite summer dishes. It is so refreshing, light, yet also comforting. I made this salad vegan-friendly, but I know burrata or mozzarella would only add to this dish!

What you’ll need:

Tomatoes

Use the best tomatoes you can find, ideally from your own garden or the farmers market. I love to use a combination of heirloom and cherry and baby tomatoes.

Bread

It’s best to use a hearty, dense bread like ciabatta or sourdough. I wouldn’t recommend a soft bread, as it will absorb the dressing to quickly. I used sourdough here. Unfortunately, the only loaves left were pre-sliced, so they were a bit thinner than I would prefer. If you can, cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.

Red Onion

Red onions add a perfect pop to salads. To temper the intensity, allow the sliced red onions to sit in red wine vinegar for at least 10 minutes. It creates a slightly pickled and sweet onion… delicious!

Cucumber

Persian or seedless cucumbers will be your best option to provide for that crisp and refreshing bite. However, I have used regular cucumbers and it still works just fine! If you want less liquid, scoop out the seeds.

Fresh Basil

Basil always makes everything better. This is a must.

Olive oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Garlic, and S+P

These five classic ingredients make up the simple dressing and allow the flavors to meld together perfectly.

Please note that this recipe is adapted from Serious Eats. I added a few veggies, and omitted a few ingredients, but they helped frame up this delicious recipe!

How to change up this recipe with other amazing summer ingredients:

  • Add fresh corn off the cob
  • Brighten with blackberries or grilled peaches
  • Make it heartier with lentils
  • Make it creamy with mozzarella or burrata

Looking for something else?

Simple Tomato Panzanella Salad

This Simple Tomato Panzanella Salad is made with homemade olive oil-soaked croutons, juicy tomatoes, red onion, and fresh cucumbers and basil. It is bright, refreshing and full of the freshest summer ingredients!
Prep Time30 mins
Resting time25 mins
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: panzanella, plant-based, salad, tomatoes, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs tomatoes ideally a mix of heirloom and baby*
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 small loaf sourdough (about 400g, or 6 cups of cubes)
  • 8 tbsp olive oil, divided extra virgin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar, divided
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cup chopped basil loosely packed
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Place a colander inside a bowl. Chop tomatoes and place in colander. Salt tomatoes with 2 tsp Kosher salt and toss. Allow to drain for ~30 minutes, allowing juices to drain into the bowl below.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut sourdough bread into 1in cubes. Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil. Lay on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. (until toasted and firm, but not too browned). Remove and allow to cool.
  • Slice red onion thinly. Place in a bowl with 1 tbsp red wine vinegar. Mix onions to coat in vinegar. Allow to sit for minimum of 10 minutes.**
  • Slice cucumber thinly into bite size pieces.
  • In the bowl under the colander (the one collecting tomato juice), combine the dressing. Add 6 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, and minced garlic. Generously salt and pepper, to taste.
  • In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, chopped basil and dressing.
  • 10-15 minutes before serving, toss in sourdough cubes. Toss well to coat with dressing. Allow flavors to sit for those 10-15 minutes, and serve!

Notes

*I used a combination of heirloom and baby tomatoes. Best picked straight from the garden (of course) or in summer season!
**Allow red onions to sit in red wine vinegar for 10 minutes. This macerates the onions, and tempers the bite of raw onions.
For leftovers (if it’s not all eaten!), package the homemade croutons separately, and add just before eating. 
 
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