When I think of panzanella, the Tuscan classic, I think of big chunks of toasted bread, soaking up the juices of summer tomatoes, with a ton of herbs. I think of eating while basking in the golden rays and heat and humidity of late summer.
But, a good bread salad doesn’t need to be packed away with the bathing suits as soon as the weather turns brisker. In fact, I actually prefer an autumnal, warm panzanella with any variety of root vegetables and squash, plus the hearty greens that can withstand the first frosts of fall. The make-up of vegetables is not terribly important. See this salad as an outlet for the random carrot and half sweet potato that inevitably end up in the crisper.
When roasting vegetables, cut them larger than you might think. Two reasons for this: One, the larger the cut, the longer the vegetables take to cook, allowing for more caramelization. The flavor is richer and that textural contrast between a crispy exterior and creamy interior is more pronounced. (If you have a convection function on your oven, it makes achieving that crunchy exoskeleton even easier.) Two, by cutting the vegetables larger, they don’t get a short shrift in the salad, because each bite has more of that individual flavor. Like a great play, it’s about the chorus, not just the star.
Bagna cauda—a warm Piedmontese dressing traditionally served with raw vegetables—brings everything together. I learned this dish from my mentor Skye Gyngell. I can’t even remember how it was featured in her kitchen, but I remember the first time I smelled it—wafts of garlic and butter, with the umami underpinning of anchovy and rosemary. Every time I make it, someone, be it a fellow line cook or dinner guest, walks in and says, “What is that amazing smell?” And I smile and say, “Bagna cauda, darling,” the way Skye said it to me over 10 years ago.
The dressing can be made in advance and held in the fridge for a good long time (at least a week but probably more in my house); just rewarm it to serve. To that point, please note that the dressing must be served warm, otherwise the butter will congeal, which is not the most pleasant mouthfeel.
This dish would be welcome at any holiday. It regularly shows up on my day-after-Thanksgiving table, as there’s usually an overabundance of stuffing croutons and random vegetables in the house, and everyone is feeling the need for a bit more salad, even if it is made of bread. —abraberens
Test Kitchen Notes
Every month, in Eat Your Vegetables, chef, Ruffage cookbook author, and former farmer Abra Berens shares a seasonal recipe that puts vegetables front and center (where they should be!). Missed an installment? Head here to catch up. —The Editors
- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 50 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
- Squash Panzanella
root vegetables (such as carrots, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and rutabaga)
squash (such as delicata, acorn, butternut, kuri, and kabocha)
loaf crusty bread or 2 baguettes, torn into bite-sized pieces
Olive oil and salt, for roasting
- Bagna Cauda
4 to 6
garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
arugula (or 1 handful per person)
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Cut all of the root vegetables and squash into 1-inch chunks. Transfer to a bowl and coat with a hefty glug of olive oil and a couple big pinches of salt.
- Transfer to a parchment- or foil-lined sheet pan and roast until tender on the inside and caramelized on the outside, about 40 minutes.
- When the veg are just about done, toss the bread with another glug of olive oil and pinch of salt, and add to the vegetable roasting tray. Return to the oven to crisp and lightly brown the croutons while you make the bagna cauda.
- In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over low to medium heat. Add the rosemary sprig and chili flakes to fry lightly, about 30 seconds. Add the anchovies and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the garlic is soft, lowering the heat as needed so it doesn’t brown. Remove and discard the rosemary sprig, then add the lemon zest and butter, and stir to combine.
- When the vegetables and bread are finished roasting (after about 10 minutes), remove from the oven and transfer to a large, heat-proof mixing bowl. Pour the bagna cauda on top, then add the vinegar and arugula. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Eat warm or at room temperature.