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Summer Panzanella Salad

This Summer Panzanella Salad is a riot of colors, textures, and flavors, and certainly one of the best ways to illustrate why simple Italian cuisine can be so satisfying. {Jump to Recipe}

Summer Panzanella Salad // FoodNouveau.com

I think it’s fair to say summer’s the season that offers the most opportunities in the kitchen—at least for all of us living in the Northern Hemisphere. Markets are just bursting with the tastiest and most colorful fruits and veggies, so my problem usually is: so much fresh produce, way too little time to enjoy it!

When summer rolls around, I always have a long list of new recipes I want to try, but also seasonal favorites I want to go back to. One dish I invariably make every year when tomatoes are at their peak is Panzanella. This Tuscan salad, traditionally a messy combination of fresh tomatoes, bread cubes, onions, olive oil, and vinegar, is super easy to make and so thoroughly enjoyable to eat on a warm summer night.

Summer Panzanella Salad // FoodNouveau.com

In a traditional Panzanella, stale bread is soaked in water, squeezed, then shredded and mixed with the remaining ingredients. I prefer toasting stale bread cubes, then mixing them into the dressing a few minutes before adding the other ingredients, so the liquid the bread absorbs is the dressing itself. Some crunch remains, too, which adds wonderful texture to the salad.

I tend to make Panzanella a bit differently every time, adding cucumbers, basil and other fresh herbs, and Italian cheese to the mix, but last year I made a version that was so good I had to write it down and promised myself I’d make it again and again. My twists were to add fresh, juicy peaches to the mix, swap in chives for the usual onion, and serve the salad topped with milky rich Buffalo Mozzarella. The salad was so gorgeous, full of flavor, and delicious with a glass of rosé that I dubbed it my Summer Panzanella Salad.

Summer Panzanella Salad // FoodNouveau.com

Why Summer Panzanella? Because frankly, you shouldn’t be making this salad when tomatoes and peaches are offseason. Summer Panzanella needs the best of the best to shine—that is, the juiciest peaches and the ripest tomatoes. This is a celebratory salad, a dish that makes you at once infinitely grateful for summer produce, and somber at the idea that the season will invariably end sooner than you want it to. But after two or three bites, bitter thoughts dissipate and all that remains is the incredible joy produced by a handful of simple ingredients. I often say Italian is the cuisine that kindles the purest pleasure in me, and if I had to illustrate that pleasure, I’ll say this Summer Panzanella Salad would do a pretty good job at it.

Summer Panzanella Salad // FoodNouveau.com

Helpful Tips for Making Summer Panzanella Salad

  • Go wild for tomatoes: This Summer Panzanella Salad looks especially striking when you use several varieties of tomatoes. If you can get your hands on gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, by all means, use them, and mix in colorful cherry tomatoes. If you “only” have beautiful, ripe, garden tomatoes, by all means, use them—your pleasure won’t be diminished.
  • Pick your peaches carefully: I’ve previously complained about the fact that juicy ripe peaches can be a difficult catch, but you’ll have to be extra careful here because this Summer Panzanella is no place for mealy fruits. Ripe peaches are aromatic and soft to the touch. The peach should easily “give” to your gentle touch. If the peaches are so soft they bruise when you press them, they’re probably a bit too ripe for this salad but perfect for messy eating.
  • If you can’t find ripe peaches, be patient: I live far from where peaches are grown, so I rarely find perfectly ripe peaches at the market. Instead, I look for beautiful, heavy peaches with unbruised skins with a “hard and soft” texture, like that of a tennis ball. These peaches will ripen on your countertop in two to three days. Bring a bag home, let them sit for a while, and enjoy your Summer Panzanella a bit later in the week. Don’t buy rock hard peaches—those will take forever to ripen if they ever do at all.
 

 

Summer Panzanella Salad

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 4 servings

This Summer Panzanella Salad is a riot of colors, textures, and flavors, and certainly one of the best ways to illustrate why simple Italian cuisine can be so satisfying.

Ingredients

For the dressing

For the salad

  • 1 L (4 cups) stale bread cubes or torn pieces of stale baguette (about 1/2 a baguette)
  • 2 tbsp (30 m) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of flaky sea salt
  • About 3 cups (750 ml) total quartered, sliced, or halved heirloom, Roma, or cherry tomatoes
  • 3 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) minced chives, or sliced red onion
  • 1 ball fresh buffalo mozzarella (about 3.5 oz [100 g])
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To garnish

Instructions

For the dressing: Add the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and mustard in a large mixing bowl. Whisk and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the salad: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Spread the bread cubes or torn bread pieces over a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden and crunchy in spots. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Whisk the dressing again, then add the toasted bread. Toss to coat with the dressing. Add the tomatoes, peaches, and chives, and gently toss to combine.

Transfer to a large serving plate. (I like to use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.) Tear the ball of buffalo mozzarella into bite-size pieces and distribute over the salad. Top with basil leaves and sliced dry salami or prosciutto, if using. Drizzle the salad with a bit more extra-virgin olive oil, then season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve and enjoy with a glass of Tuscan rosé or red wine.

Courses Lunch, Dinner

Cuisine Italian

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Warm Barley and Cod Salad // FoodNouveau.com

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