Make Ahead

Panzanella della Piazzale

July 30, 2010
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

A panzanella is a bread salad, so don’t forget that. But we are using heirloom tomatoes here as well. And for the tomatoes I would go with a bright and colorful assortment; maybe yellow ones, purple ones, green ones. Whatever looks good to you. But do be mindful of the bread. It should be two to three days old (stale matters) for the proper texture. There is an Italian proverb about scooping up the crumbs of bread you’ve wasted with your eyelashes before you can be admitted to heaven. I think that was one of the provisions of SB 1070 that was tossed out by the Federal District Court over immigrant angels, legal or not. Recently I tasted a perfect panzanella in a local restaurant which reminded me of the fact that the bread (croutons) in the salad require just the right amount of toothiness. You are not feeding this to infants. - pierino —pierino

Test Kitchen Notes

Having only dabbled in unconventional panzanellas, I was eager to try a more authentic version and had a hunch pierino would deliver. I dared not deviate from the recipe – letting the bread sit on the counter for three days and harvesting the basil only moments before tossing, as instructed. The rustic Italian bread I used didn’t hold its crouton shape very well once it was tossed with the other ingredients, so the salad wasn’t pretty, but it was sublime. Each element, from the bitter greens to the bread (crumbs), was perfectly balanced to make the heirloom tomatoes shine. Grazie mille, piereno! - Midge —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound mixed heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, heirloom or not
  • 2 cups stale bread, crusts removed
  • Cold water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups mixed microgreens, or whatever sharp flavored small greens you can assemble or forage for
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper
  1. Begin with the bread. Cut up your stale bread into small pieces, crouton size: 1” to 2” to your liking. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with cold water to moisten. Slowly drizzle the vinegar over the croutons. Let rest for 2 minutes. Using your clean hands, squeeze the liquids out of the bread and move to another bowl where you will assemble everything.
  2. Slice the tomatoes into smallish wedges. Wash and slice the cherry tomatoes into half pieces.
  3. Rinse your greens and spin dry. Tear the basil leaves up—you’ve just picked them, right?
  4. Wash your hands again. Combine all of the above with your clean hands and then add the oil slowly, season with salt and pepper, unite all of this together by the clean hand method and serve. Facile, no?
  5. Note to the cook: Nothing spoils a panzanella more than soggy bread except for, on the other end of the spectrum, a dry crouton. The bread is an integral flavor and you have to handle it correctly. It should be moist and chewy at the same time and the tomatoes must taste like tomatoes and not wax paper.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Änneken
  • AntoniaJames
  • boulangere
  • pierino
  • Lizthechef
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.

9 Reviews

Änneken May 27, 2019
I combined this recipe with Marcella Hazan's and added soaked onion and yellow bell pepper. I also toasted/charred the bread before moistening it...bomb. Don't skip the basil. Although it was soggy the next day, the salad still had amazing flavor. So simple & delish!
Godfrey M. September 11, 2018
Thanks I tried it and my kids absolutely loved it!
AntoniaJames February 20, 2018
Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. Will try the day that good warm-weather tomatoes make their first appearance at the farmers' market. ;o)
Natalie R. September 10, 2016
I used some sourdough that I had baked the week before, and it held its shape extremely well. I didn't bother removing the crust. Wonderful for a light dinner! I used wild arugula for my herbs. I did change it up a little and used 1 lb heirloom cherry tomatoes and 1/2 lb romas.
boulangere November 13, 2012
pierino August 12, 2010
E grazie Lei.
AntoniaJames July 30, 2010
Outstanding recipe. Love it. Ma, pierino . . . dimmi, per favore, che piazzale? ;o)
pierino July 30, 2010
The one next to the train station...
Lizthechef July 30, 2010
First panzanella I have seen this round and, as always, it looks good.