Panzanella may not sound very interesting: a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes. It is actually delicious, and a great summer dish. There are multitudes of panzanella recipes online, like this one in Italian, a fancy Jamie Oliver variation with tuna, or this classic Simon Hopkinson panzanella recipe. As you see, the base is stale bread and tomatoes, but there is scope for playing around with whatever you fancy. I’ve seen variations with anchovies, grilled bell peppers, cucumbers and even asparagus – not traditional, but it’s really up to you. Just use good bread and tasty tomatoes. It should be unsalted Tuscan bread, but any good firm bread will do.
Panzanella – a refreshing Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes for a hot day
Four-five slices of slightly stale sourdough bread
500 g of nicely ripe tomatoes, chopped
300 g more of nicely ripe tomatoes, mashed through a strainer
A bellpepper, if you like them, seeded
An onion, white or red
A cucumber, peeled and seeded
A handful of fresh basil leaves
2 tbs red wine vinegar
A clove or two of garlic, minced
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chop the bread, or tear it apart (my bread was crusty and hard to tear, hence the less rustic chopping.) Using good bread does make a difference. Mash half of the tomatoes through a strainer, discarding skin and seeds but keeping the tomato juice. Add olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, salt and pepper, and pour this over the bread. The bread should be moist from the juices, but not too soggy. Chop the bellpepper, remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and slice the onion. Add this to the salad, and put this in the fridge for twenty minutes or so, so that the flavours meld.
Notes: also nice the next day, if the bread is not soggy. You could add olives, capers, more bellpeppers: what do you fancy eating in the heat?
PS Reading The Guardian online on a hot Ferragosto afternoon here. August 15 is an Italian holiday, our neighborhood is absolutely deserted and we just finished a late lunch of bruschetta with grilled fennel and capers. What do you know: the wonderful Felicity Cloake has “How to make the perfect panzanella today! Looks like I will have to make it again soon to try her recipe!