This colorful Panzanella Salad has tomatoes, peppers, onion and cucumbers to give it loads of flavor, crunch and color. The bread is toasted then soaks up the garlic dressing and tomato juices which make it better and better as it sits. Perfect for summer potlucks and events!

Closeup overhead of panzanella salad

I originally shared this recipe on July 3rd, 2018. I have updated the post to share it with you again today.

Why We Love This Recipe

I adore Tuscan Bread Salad, or Panzanella as it is commonly known. It is made up of stale bread, fresh tomatoes and garlicky dressing.

There is something truly sublime about the salad made with bread! The bread is crisped first in the oven, then it’s soaked in the tomato juices and garlicky dressing.

That’s what makes it so great for a potluck or picnic in the summer- it just gets better and better as it sits! Or a wedding, which I kid you not, panzanella was on my own wedding menu!

This recipe is fantastic paired with grilled Pork tenderloin, Marinated Garlic Lemon Chicken and Burgers too. We like to serve other big casual summer side salads with it too, like this Creamy Chickpea Salad with lemon avocado dressing, this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and this easy Italian Pasta Salad.

side view of panzanella in a wooden bowl

Why This Tuscan Bread Salad Is Unique

  • This Rainbow hued version is so much more than your basic tomatoes plus bread panzanellas out there!
  • The bread is toasted then soaks up the garlic dressing and tomato juices which make it better and better as it sits. Perfect for summer potlucks and events!
  • In this panzanella, there’s all sorts of other colorful veggies tossed in. Since all my favorite veggies are bursting out of the garden right now, cucumbers, peppers and onions– I added in as many colors as I possibly could. It’s like eating a rainbow! 
  • Also basil and olives pep this panzanella up even more- because when it comes to panzanella- more delicious Italian flavor is always more right?
OVerhead view of a table with tomatoes, a serving bowl of panzanella and a single serving in a small wooden bowl

Ingredients For This Panzanella Recipe

ingredients with captions

Which Bread to Use

Tuscan Italian recipes are known for creative (and delicious) ways of using up stale bread. From Ribollita (one of my favorite Tuscan soups) to Papa al Pomodoro (another bread thickened soup- made with tomatoes.) That’s because Tuscan bread is made without salt, and it goes stale quickly. 

Funny story about Tuscan bread- I did my junior year in Florence, and the day we landed and moved into our apartments, I bought myself some olive oil and a loaf of bread. I’ll never forget how surprised I was to discover that the bread was unsalted!

I later learned that traditional Tuscan bread isn’t salted (probably a holdover from the Middle Ages.) You can buy it with salt, but you have to ask for it salted. 

In this recipe, I used regular salted bread. Look for a nice crusty loaf that you have to cut yourself so you can make nice big cubes. “Ciabatta” is a great option if you can find it.

Veggies

What makes this panzanella stand out (and healthier) is the amount of extra veggies we have added in.Try to pick a couple different colors of tomatoes and peppers. And red onion adds a pretty colorful hue as well.

Olives

Look for Black and/or Green Italian Olives at the market. If the pits are included, press them with the side of your Chef’s knife and then pull them out. Roughly chop the olives. If you cannot find Italian olives, Greek will do well as a sub.

Dressing Ingredients

The dressing is made from red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, Dijon and basil. I like the bright acidity of red wine vinegar with these summer ripe ingredients and it doesn’t discolor the bread like balsamic does.

How To Make Panzanella Salad

toast bread and make dressing

Step 1: Toast the bread on a baking sheet to crisp it up. This will help it absorb more of the tomato juices and dressing and give it a crunchy yet tender texture.

Step 2: Whisk the vinegar, oil, garlic, dijon and basil in a large bowl with the salt and pepper.

add the tomatoes and bread and then let them soak the juices up for 10 minutes

Step 3: Add the tomatoes and bread to the bowl with the dressing and stir together.

Step 4: Let the panzanella sit for 10 minutes to let the tomatoes and dressing soak into the crisped bread.

add the remaining veggies and olives and stir to combine

Step 5: After the bread has soaked up the juices for 10 minutes or so, add the cucumbers, peppers, onions and olives to the bread and tomato mixture.

Step 6: Stir the veggies into the panzanella and serve immediately, or chill.

FAQs for this Recipe

What is Panzanella?

Panzanella is Italian bread salad made with fresh chopped tomatoes and day old toasted or stale bread. Many traditional Tuscan recipes start with soaking the bread in water and then ringing it out. They are then tossed with the tomatoes and dressing (always made with extra-virgin olive oil and often garlic.) 
A lot of Americanized versions of the recipe (including this one) don’t include soaking the bread and wringing it out. I never thought that made much sense, since there is so much moisture from the tomatoes! 

Can it be made ahead?

You can make this recipe two to four hours ahead. But the texture of the tomatoes will start to soften up a lot after that.
To Make Ahead 1 Day:
1. Toast the bread and keep it out on a sheet pan, loosely covered with foil.
2. Chop up the veggies (except the tomatoes) and keep them in a glass container in the fridge. 
3. Mix the dressing and put it in a jar in the fridge. 
4. Up to four hours before serving, toss the bread, freshly chopped tomatoes and dressing together, and let soak for 20 to 30 minutes. (Since the bread isn’t going to be hot, it will need extra time to soak.) Then add in the remaining ingredients. 

What To Serve With Panzanella Salad

Overhead of a teal bowl filled with panzanella

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter or follow me on instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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close-up of panzanella

Panzanella Salad

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 side dishes or 6 entree servings 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This colorful Panzanella Salad has tomatoes, peppers, onion and cucumbers to give it loads of flavor, crunch and color. The bread is toasted then soaks up the garlic dressing and tomato juices which make it better and better as it sits. Perfect for summer potlucks and events!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces crusty Italian bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 large ripe red tomato, cored and cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 large ripe yellow tomato, cored and cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, cut into bite sized squares
  • 1 purple or green bell pepper, cut into bite sized squares
  • ½ red onion, root removed, peeled and sliced from stem end to root end
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into small bite-sized chunks
  • ½ cup sliced pitted olives

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spread bread out on a large baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake until crispy and starting to brown, 12 to 14 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk in basil.
  4. Add the hot croutons and red and yellow tomato to the dressing, and toss to coat. Let sit, tossing occasionally until the bread has absorbed the dressing and tomato juices, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in red and purple peppers, onion, cucumber and olives. Serve immediately or at room temperature within two hours. If not serving within two hours, cover and refrigerate.

Notes

To Make Ahead One Day In Advance:

  1. The best way to do that is to toast the bread and keep it out on a sheet pan, loosely covered with foil.
  2. Then chop up the veggies (except the tomatoes) and keep them in a glass container in the fridge.
  3. Mix the dressing and put it in a jar in the fridge.
  4. Up to four hours before serving, toss the bread, tomatoes and dressing together, and let soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Then add in the remaining ingredients.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 189 cals
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 13 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 3 g
Panzanella Salad