Make Ahead

Cacio e Pepe Panzanella With Corn & Burrata

July 12, 2021
19 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Andrea Foti.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4 as a main course (more as a side)
Author Notes

This big, beautiful spin on panzanella—the classic bread and tomato salad from Tuscany—is everything I love about simple summer cooking. It brings together so many of the season’s gems: juicy sweet corn, ripe cherry tomatoes, fragrant basil, and peppery arugula—all united by oozy, pillowy burrata.

But the real stunner—the thing I find myself eating before the salad ever hits the table? The cacio e pepe croutons. Meaning “cheese and pepper” in Italian, cacio e pepe is a simple, well-known Roman pasta dish, but the cacio e pepe treatment can and should be applied to so many other croutons! Through trial and error (and many loaves of bread), I landed on a two-step process for ensuring cheesy, peppery bliss in each toasty bite. First, tossing torn chunks of bread generously in cacio e pepe dressing (a riff on Canal House's melted parmesan dressing from Food52’s Mighty Salads) on a sheet pan, and second, starting with a cold oven when toasting the bread. This cold oven technique is not only a boon for hot summer days, the gradual climb from cold to hot prevents the dressing-soaked croutons from sticking and gently crisps them until they’re golden and crispy on the outside, still soft and chewy on the inside.

With this crouton method in hand, the sky's the limit when it comes to summery variations you can dream up from now until the season's end. Seared or grilled zucchini or eggplant, blanched green beans, charred peppers, and so many herbs and greens all have a home here. And because it’s sturdy and portable, the salad can effortlessly go from a make-ahead weeknight dinner to a show-stealing side at your next picnic or outdoor BBQ.

Test Kitchen Notes

It's the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we're hungry. Like, "can't-think-straight" hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner's Ready, her twice-a-month column on weeknight wonders, Emily shares simple, flavor-packed recipes that'll have a good meal on the table in no time. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Cacio e Pepe Panzanella With Corn & Burrata
  • For cacio e pepe dressing:
  • 3/4 cup (65 grams) finely grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste (I like a full tablespoon!)
  • For rest of salad:
  • 10 ounces crusty bread (such as ciabatta), torn into bite-sized pieces (about 7 cups in total)
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 4 ears of corn)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups to 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, small leaves left whole, or large leaves roughly torn
  • 8 ounces to 10 ounces burrata or good-quality fresh mozzarella, at cool room temperature
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano, for serving
  1. To make the dressing: Add the Pecorino to a large bowl, and whisk in the boiling water until the cheese is melted and evenly incorporated, about 15 to 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil until emulsified, then add the black pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup of the dressing for assembling the salad (Step 5).
  2. Add the bread and corn to a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silicon mat. Season with a few big pinches of salt, then add the remaining dressing. (Don’t rinse the bowl you used for the dressing—you’ll use it in Step 4!) Using your hands, toss until the bread and corn are thoroughly coated on all sides with the dressing.
  3. Place the sheet pan in a cold oven, and heat to 375 degrees F. When the oven reaches temp, check the croutons. If they’re browning nicely, remove the sheet pan from the oven and flip them and stir the corn. (If not, keep baking for a few minutes longer.) After you’ve flipped the croutons, bake about 4 to 6 minutes longer (but could be a little longer or shorter depending on your oven), or until they’re golden and crispy on the outside, but still a little soft in some parts from the dressing. As they cool, they’ll continue to crisp up.
  4. Meanwhile, add the halved cherry tomatoes to the large bowl you used for the dressing. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper, then gently toss them so they’re coated in any residual dressing clinging to the bowl.
  5. After the croutons and corn have cooled for a few minutes, toss in the tomatoes and arugula, and drizzle a little more of the dressing over the entire salad. Add the basil and big torn pieces of burrata or fresh mozzarella—then top with more grated Pecorino and black pepper, to taste. (Alternatively, assemble the salad on your favorite serving platter.) Serve at room temperature.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kristin Anderson
    Kristin Anderson
  • oregon cassie
    oregon cassie
  • Lisa F
    Lisa F
  • FrugalCat
  • THEToughCookie

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

40 Reviews

Manolo April 29, 2023
Why do you call this Panzanella?
Call it bread salad, this is not a Panzanella.
With love from Florence
Sunitha G. April 17, 2023
Made it for a lunch for a get together and everyone loved it. As some viewers said I roasted the bread and corn separately and it did take little longer than suggested. This recipe will go into my salad folder and will be making it again soon. Thank you for sharing the recipe!!
Sunitha G. April 16, 2023
Made it for lunch and the whole family loved the salad. I baked the bread and the corn separately as the other reviewers recommended and It definitely took longer to bake in the oven than the recipe called for. This recipe will go into my recipe folder to make again and again. Thank you for sharing the recipe!!
Sunitha G. April 17, 2023
Oops sorry looks like I already posted the review and posted again
[email protected] March 19, 2023
Incredible salad. Not your typical salad but great flavors and made a wonderful side dish with a grilled steak. You don't need anything more! I could caution in keeping the corn and bread separate on the baking sheet so the bread does not become soggy. Took my bread an extra probably 6-7 minutes to toast appropriately. Perfect for our family who loves bread and corn. Will definitely make again, and again!
raniye January 7, 2023
This didn’t turn out the best. I think the bread can turn out soggy when mixed with pasta and having radicchio or aragula ruined the taste I think a plain pasta with bread crumbs would be much better.
Kristin A. July 6, 2022
Love this!! Will for sure make again. Bread took longer to crisp up in our oven than the recipe suggested, but nbd.
JennyG July 2, 2022
I’m a fan of variations on panzanella and anything that involves burrata. I thought the croutons were genius. I appreciate the effort that went into testing and perfecting the method. I chose to use manchego on mine. Doesn’t melt quite as smooth but worked nevertheless! I made this a second time and added shredded rotisserie chicken but it’s better without the protein. It’s a keeper!!
pjcamp October 30, 2021
Good recipe but I only have one problem: Pecorino Romano does not not not melt away into water no matter how hot it is. You get a big gelatinous blob clogging your whisk. And that should be obvious. Cheese is fat. Fat doesn't mix with water.

The only way you have a hope of getting this to work is to dump the works into a food processor and let it rip for 5 or 10 minutes.

It does make some seriously awesome croutons, however.
oregon C. August 29, 2021
Loved this recipe, brought back good memories of having the pasta every night in Rome, each restaurant had its own take on it. I had an abundance of kale, so swapped out the arugula. Only pecorino we get around here is at Costco — not sure if it is the best quality, but worked perfectly in the recipe.
EmilyC August 30, 2021
Thanks for the nice note, oregon C.! So glad you tried and liked it!
Tracy D. August 23, 2021
Made this for dinner tonight and oh my my! So delicious it was! The way the bread soaks up the delicious parmy dressing and the tomato/corn/basil flavors meld together in such a "Sum is Greater Than The Parts" kind of way. Truly a pinnacle of summer flavors salad and will become part of my forever summer menus. Thank you so much for this recipe.
EmilyC August 24, 2021
So glad! Thanks for trying this, Tracy!
Zaide August 3, 2021
Made this salad the other day and it was a huge hit! I did encounter a problem making the dressing. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup of cheese and 1/3 cup boiling water. I found the result was way too thick. Needless to say I just added more water, but wondering if anyone else encountered this problem.
EmilyC August 13, 2021
Sorry for my delayed response, Zaide! I suspect the issue stems from the cheese measurement. Depending on how you grate the cheese, and how tightly packed it is in your measuring cup, that could totally affect the thickness of the dressing. But you did the right thing, of course, by adding more water! (If you have a scale, you can measure it by weight next time; that's what I usually do!) Thanks so much for trying it -- so glad you liked it!
Terri July 18, 2021
I saved this recipe so I could use really good tomatoes and corn. I couldn't stop sneaking the croutons. Despite the final product being light on croutons, it was outstanding. Like summer on a platter. Thanks for a great recipe.
EmilyC July 19, 2021
Thanks Terri -- so glad you tried and liked it!
Jane July 15, 2021
I was very disappointed. The croutons were delicious, but the rest way too much work for the final results. First, way too little dressing. Next, corn was unnecessary. This kind of salad is simple. Just bre roasted with olive oil and leftover bits added in. Maybe some
EmilyC July 19, 2021
Hi Jane -- sorry the salad didn't hit the spot for you. Thanks for trying it.
Amy July 15, 2021
I made this last night and it was excellent. Woke up this morning thinking about it! Thank you for this recipe - it's going into the rotation.
EmilyC July 15, 2021
Great to hear, and you're welcome! So glad you'll be making it again. Thanks Amy.
Lisa F. July 12, 2021
Really delicious! I highly recommend this recipe. Thanks for sharing it, Emily!
EmilyC July 13, 2021
Thank you for trying it, Lisa!
FrugalCat July 12, 2021
Scrumptious! I was a little wary about toasting croutons in the summer heat but it wasn't too bad. Used flat leaf parsley instead of basil. Burrata? Brilliant! This will be made again.
EmilyC July 13, 2021
Wonderful -- so glad you liked it, FrugalCat!
THEToughCookie July 10, 2021
Emily, I have no idea (yet) what this salad tastes like because I'm too busy raiding the sheet pan's unbelievably tasty croutons! The only thing saving me from eating EVERYTHING now is knowing that burrata goes on at the end.

Honestly, this is fantastic!
EmilyC July 11, 2021
Ha, I hear you on the croutons! They're my favorite part (even more than the burrata which is saying a lot!). Hope you enjoyed the salad if you ended up making it : ) Thanks for your note!
THEToughCookie July 11, 2021
Of course I made the whole salad! HUGE hit over here, and have already shared it with a few friends.
Jen July 5, 2021
This was so tasty! I always have a hard time when mixing the cheese and water for Cacio e Pepe... and the same issue happened here. My dressing really didn't emulsify but after it was tossed with the salad it didn't matter one bit. It was delicious!
EmilyC July 6, 2021
So glad! Thanks Jen!
Darian June 27, 2021
We loved this riff on panzanella! So delicious! A perfect summer dinner.
EmilyC June 28, 2021
Thanks Darian -- glad you liked it!
[email protected] June 16, 2021
This was absolutely delicious. The salad dressing was also amazing and so easy to make. We will be making this salad dish a lot!
EmilyC June 17, 2021
So happy this was a hit for you, and isn't the dressing great?! Every time I make it, I'm amazed at how easy and delicious it is. And it's good on so many things beyond this panzanella...grilled and roasted vegetables, all types of green salads, pasta salads, etc. Thanks for your note!