Panzanella Recipe: Bread Salad with Tomato and Basil

panzanella bread salad with tomato and basil
panzanella bread salad with tomato and basil

You wouldn't think that "bread salad" would be a very flavorful dish, but this simple salad is incredibly satisfying. Fresh heirloom tomatoes, Italian ciabatta bread, Kalamata olives, parmesan cheese, basil, red onion, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar all complement each other beautifully in this refreshing salad.

Please note that one does not have to stick strictly to the ingredients on this list. In Italy, this dish is often thought of as a "leftover salad" and additional ingredients are often included, like carrots, red wine, capers, lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon juice, bell peppers, mint, and even tuna or anchovies. Once you get a sense for the basic flavors, feel free to experiment and use up those extra ingredients left over from your last meal.

Panzanella Recipe: Bread Salad with Tomato and Basil

serves 4-6


  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread (ciabatta is an Italian white bread)
  • 4 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes (why heirloom tomatoes?)
  • 1 cup oil-cured pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh, coarsely chopped basil leaves
  • 1 1/4 cup flaked parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • balsamic vinegar to taste

Some Notes on the Ingredients:

Make sure that your tomatoes and basil are very fresh and flavorful. The bread can even be a little stale, for the juices from the rest of the ingredients will soften it considerably, but, for the tomatoes and basil, freshness is key. We love to make panzanella with tomatoes and basil straight from our own home garden. Failing that, try a farmer's market, natural foods store, or other local business that sells local produce.

Preparation instructions:

Make sure that you start preparing this dish at the right time so that when it is done it can be eaten immediately. That way the bread will not get soggy.

1. Wash all of your vegetables.

2. Cut the bread and heirloom tomatoes into large chunks. Mince the red onion, and finely mince the garlic. Coarsely chop the basil leaves. Leave the pitted Kalamata olives whole. Make large flakes of the parmesan or Romano cheese.

3. Stir all of the ingredients from step one together, mixing well.

4. Sprinkle across the top the salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Mix well and taste. Be sure not to overdo these flavorings, because the tomato and basil should be the main flavor of the dish.

5. Serve immediately, for you do not want the bread to become too soggy. Enjoy!

panzanella bread salad with tomato and basil
panzanella bread salad with tomato and basil

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Comments 4 comments

Kathy 9 years ago

This looks incredibly delicious! Bread and Italian food, probably my two favorite things in the world!

Julie 7 years ago

I wholly disagree with the "serve immediately" instruction. Traditionally, the ingredients in panzanella are to meld and this salad can and even should be served at room temperature.

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Melissa Ray Davis 7 years ago from Swannanoa, NC Author

Julie ~ To each her own. We learned this method from some Italians, perhaps it varies by region (I know the ingredients certainly do!). We prefer it fresh and not too saturated, but if you like it a bit soggy, have at it. This is, by the way, served at room temperature, since the only refrigerated ingredient is the cheese (and possibly the olives if they have already been opened).

nurseleah profile image

nurseleah 3 years ago from West Virginia

Great, great, great! I just got the idea for panzanella from Foodstuff, a fellow hubber. I just needed a few more specifics, and you gave me just what I needed! Have you ever tried mixing all the wet ingredients together, letting them marinate in the fridge overnight, then tossing with the bread the next day? That could be a real time-saver.

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