Panzanella who does not love Italian’s, and their ability to never waste a thing? One huge thing I have learned from Italians is never to waste. This one important lesson made me a chef and also made my restaurant successful. This beautiful salad is just so easy using stale bread that you happen to have. The traditional Panzanella salad does not have mozzarella balls, I added them because, well….. I really like them in the salad.
Special Notes: You really want the bread to be dry or stale. I cubed my bread and placed it in my air fryer on the bake mode at 250* about 5-6 minutes. What was nice is that it just dried the bread and did not brown it, making for more of a traditional looking panzanella. You may also use your conventional oven, just keep the temperature low.
Also very important is the quality of ingredients. As you can see there are not a lot of ingredients in this salad, so the key to making this salad is to make sure you have great looking basil, a really good extra virgin olive oil, the most flavorful tomatoes. I have used vine ripe, campari, cherub, heirloom, you name the tomato and I have tried them. Just make sure they are ripe with flavor. I like using a champagne vinegar or red wine vinegar, why? Because of presentation of course. Balsamic will instantly turn everything brown. For my demo on Sunday however I may give a nice drizzle of my Giuseppe Giusti balsamic from Modena just before serving because it is just so damn good.
One of the best salads to make with fresh tomatoes and basil from your garden. This is Bella’s version adding some mozzarella balls. A nice hearty salad for lunch or dinner.
1 Loaf very crusty stale bread
1 English cucumber peeled, cut in half and sliced
6 Campari tomatoes cut in wedges
1/2 Red onion sliced very thinly
Fresh basil leaves
Small mozzarella balls – Bel Gioioso Ciliegine
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
Champagne or red wine vinegar
Sea salt & pepper
You can prepare this salad in a large salad bowl or individual bowls. Place the dry and stale bread in a bowl. Have a glass or bowl of water available, using your finger tips sprinkle some water onto the bread cubes. Typically in Tuscan the bread would be very stale and this process will soften it just a bit. Start adding the rest of your ingredients, the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, tear the basil leaves (not real small, because you want to see the color and get a pop of flavor) and sprinkle around and mozzarella balls. Drizzle the salad with vinegar, then drizzle with olive oil, next season with salt and pepper.
Its best to let the salad sit for 15 or 30 minutes before serving to let the bread soften a bit and to give the salad nice flavor.
This salad is great served with a grilled chicken breast or even grilled shrimp.