Panzanella salad is one of THE BEST classic Italian recipes! It’s a perfect summer dish which makes the most of garden ripe tomatoes and fresh picked basil. And I give it a little twist by grilling the bread to make it even better!
Way back (5 years ago!!!) when I started this food blog, my mom asked me when I was going to post my awesome tomato bread salad and I told her SOON. Yeah, no. I am clearly easily distracted by shiny recipes because there is no way that 5 years is soon. 😉
However, soon is now and here it is! Sorry it took so long, mom!
What do you need?
- Tomatoes – I love standard beefsteak tomatoes, but heirlooms are fun for a multicolored effect.
- Bread – A crusty rustic style bread here. Be aware that sourdoughs can take over the flavor so I personally don’t use them in this recipe.
- Basil – A nice handful of fresh, green leaves.
- Red Onion – You don’t need much – just a few thin slices.
- Olives – I go for halved kalamatas and about half a cup.
- Dressing – Olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
How to make this
To make panzanella salad combine grilled bread, diced tomatoes, and basil with olives and red onion. Toss with a simple vinaigrette and serve.
Slice up the bread and brush it with olive oil and salt. Then grill on each side until it’s toasted and has good grill marks.
Now cut it into cubes and set it aside until you are ready to make the salad.
2. Prep the Tomatoes
Start by dicing and seeding the tomatoes, reserving the seeds in a bowl. Then put the tomatoes in a strainer and toss them with salt, letting them drain into the bowl with the seeds.
3. Mix Dressing
Here you’re going to mix together olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Then add in some thinly sliced red onions and let it all sit while you’re waiting for everything else to finish.
Tip: Putting the red onion in the dressing mellows its flavor so it still has bite but it’s not so in your face.
4. Assemble the Salad
Take all your salad ingredients and put them in a bowl and toss them with the dressing. The salad will still be a little dry, so strain some of the tomato juice into the salad until you’re happy with it.
Can this be made ahead?
No, this recipe is best made shortly before you are going to eat. It doesn’t have to be immediately, but not more than an hour.
That said, you can prep it a bit ahead. The bread and dressing can be made earlier in the day and the tomatoes will keep for a couple of hours.
If you try my recipe for panzanella salad, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Stay Safe, Annemarie
Grilled Italian Panzanella Salad
- 12-14 oz crusty dinner bread, cut into 1 inch thick slices
- olive oil and kosher salt
- 2 large ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 cup halved and pitted kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- Bread: Brush bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Heat a grill on a medium hot fire. Once hot, grill the bread on both sides until toasted and striped with grill marks. Cut bread into bite sized cubes (about 1 inch on a side) and set aside.
- Tomatoes: Seed tomatoes into a bowl and cut into 1/2 inch dice. Toss them with some kosher salt and put them in a colander over the bowl. (So that the bowl collects the juice.)
- Dressing: Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the red onion and let it all sit for about 15 minutes.
- Salad: Add bread, tomatoes, olives, and basil to a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss until the bread is coated. Strain as much of the reserved tomato juice into the salad as you wish, adding it a little a time and tossing so that the bread is well dressed but not soggy.
- Bread: Choose a rustic style bread with a chewy, firm (not crumbly) interior and with a good ratio of middle to crust. A round loaf, such a boule, is my favorite for making this salad.
- Crust: If it is very thick and tough you may want to trim it off. Otherwise, leave it on.
- Timing: You can prep the tomatoes and dressing while the grill is heating for the bread.
- Tomato Juice: You want to strain this to remove the seeds when you add it to the salad. This keeps the dish from becoming bitter and improves the texture of the dressing.