Panzanella is something I have been intending to make for a long time but never got round to it til now. It was one of the many recipes made at the Tannery course I attended and was absolutely delicious so I thought I had no excuse but to make it now. It is best made in the Summer months when fresh tomatoes here are at their best.
So what exactly is panzanella? It is a traditional peasant summer bread and tomato salad from Tuscany. Another genius way to use up old bread. I think traditionally the bread is soaked in water before using but I’m not sure if that method is used much anymore. I’m not going to use the word traditional again in this post because this recipe is far from it and as with most recipes, it has evolved over time and now there are many versions out there. This is a mixture of the recipe from the course and the recipe in The River Café Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. It is so simple and so tasty. The bread absorbs all of the other flavours.
Both recipes I worked off had anchovies. I am getting better where fish in concerned, but baby steps people! I left them out, feel free to add them if you wish. Cucumber is also frequently used, I chose not to use it. Other recipes debated the type of bread to be used, some stating ciabatta is a bad choice. However, I think it works perfectly. Whatever bread you choose, make sure it has a good structure to hold up so that you don’t end up with a completely soggy mess.
You don’t have to use cherry tomatoes, you could use all regular tomatoes, just make sure you are using about 300g in total. If you can get a mixture of yellow or tiger tomatoes that would look really pretty in the finished dish. You can roast your peppers in a hot oven with olive oil or use jarred ones. If you roast them, allow to cool, remove the skin and seeds and slice them up. I used a small amount of olives because I’m the only one who eats them in my house! I also halved them rather than chopping them smaller so they could be picked out if needed. I had some mozzarella that needed to be used so I added this also. Keep the basil leaves whole, almost like a salad leaf in this.
This would make a lovely light lunch with a chilled glass of white wine or, as I used it, as a side dish. I served it with steak just for something a bit different.
Serves 2-3 as a light lunch, more as a side dish
- 1 ciabatta loaf
- 3 ripe tomatoes (weighing approx. 200g)
- 100g piccolo or other cherry tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 100mls olive oil
- 11/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 small red onion
- 3 roasted red or yellow peppers or a mixture
- 1 tbsp. salted capers
- 1 tbsp. black olives, pitted and halved
- A bunch of fresh basil
- Mozzarella, feta or burrata cheese (optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 200c/180c fan/gas mark 6.
- Cut your ciabatta or other loaf into slices and break into large chunks. Place the bread onto a baking tray and drizzle with some olive oil. Bake the bread in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, turning once, until it turns a light golden brown colour.
- Remove from the oven and put the bread into the bottom of a large bowl.
- Blanch and peel the large tomatoes. To do this make an X in the skin on the bottom of the tomatoes and place in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and you should be easily able to peel the skin off from the X. Put the skin in a sieve over a bowl.
- Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Add the seeds to the skin in the sieve. Squash the seeds and skin with the back of a spoon to get as much juice as possible into the bowl.
- Slice up the tomato flesh and set aside.
- Finely grate or mince your garlic and add to the tomato juice with a small pinch of salt and good grinding of black pepper.
- Add the olive oil and red wine vinegar to the juice and whisk everything well together. This is your dressing for the salad.
- Pour the dressing over the bread in the bowl and mix well together. You want the bread to absorb most of the liquid.
- Chop up the remaining tomatoes and the peppers and finely slice the red onion. Take these and the earlier sliced tomatoes and add them all with the capers and olives to the bread. Mix well.
- Allow the salad to stand for about an hour at room temperature to allow all the flavours to mix together.
- When you are ready to serve add the basil leaves. Add the cheese now if you are using it. Taste for seasoning and drizzle over a little more olive oil.