The Ingredient Your Salad Is Definitely Missing

February 20, 2018

It should come as no surprise that bread is not the first thing we think of when assembling a salad. Our minds jump to light and leafy greens, or tomatoes and peppers for crunch and juice, even a charred vegetable or a protein. But bread? Bread is usually left off the list.

I mean, yes, there are croutons, but I'm talking ripped and sauce soaked crags of crusty loaves. Enter the panzanella, a Tuscan salad that actually lets bread play the part it deserves. At its most traditional, a panzanella is made from cubes of day-old bread, soaked in water to bring it back to life. These chunks meet tomatoes and thinly sliced onions and a friendly drizzling of olive oil and vinegar. Some panzanellas get dressed up with lettuces or lemon juice, anchovies, or crunchy carrots and celery.

The panzanella does something exciting—radical, even. The act of inviting bread into the salad bowl is one that deserves recognition. And so here we are, paying homage to the panzanella. This week, try putting some bread in your salad, and you definitely won’t regret it. Plus, it’s the perfect way to use up the rest of that loaf you’re not sure what to do with. Here are some recipes to get you started.

GEt Corny

Not all panzanellas are created equal. This take flips the script, opting instead for a sweeter, denser cornbread as the carby addition.

Did someone say “pretzel”?

Yes, in fact, they did. This spin relies on that chewy fairground favorite to soak up all those welcome juices. Throw in some broccoli and Brussels sprouts for a nice green crunch.

A Twist on a classic

Italians can get fussy when you mess too much with the original. And understandably so! Why futz with something that’s already a 10? This panzanella features all the great flavors of the classic, time-honored recipe, with just the subtlest of tiny tweaks.

Sweater-Weather Salad

Take all those winter-weather vegetables and toss them into your panzanella. Beets and bread? I’m in.

Bring on the bacon

This version is all types of cozy. The warm bacon and friendly peas are everything your panzanella is missing—you just didn’t know it.

Pita Time

Panzanellas are endlessly riffable. Think of breads that can soak without going too soft on you: Crunchy pita is an ideal option. Tossed with sumac and feta, you have a light and tangy lunch.

Green Machine

Emiko’s rendition eschews tomatoes completely. Instead, she opts for a greener, crunchier mix of accompaniments.

Pasta, Meet Salad

Classic and tangy puttanesca sauce meets crispy fried croutons. What more could you want?

How else do you load your salads with bread? Tell us in the comments below.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

1 Comment

FrugalCat February 20, 2018
I worked in a restaurant where the kitchen would throw out the ends of every bread loaf. I was constantly making panzanellas from rescued heels.