The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Continuing the Italian Theme: Panzanella

GSnyde's picture

Continuing the Italian Theme: Panzanella

My baking this weekend was good, but not novel.  I baked more of Sylvia's sandwich buns to have with Bulgogi.  Still I feel like I should contribute a blog post this week.  So, here's one of the many excellent recipes using stale bread (a plentiful commodity in our household).  "Panzanella" (which I believe means "Nell's trousers" in Italian) is a Florentine salad, according to Wikipedia.  

As with so many things, it is magnificent if you have great ingredients.  The real key is to use excellent tomatoes (not a problem in California in July).  My recipe differs from most I've seen in its use of Pancetta.  My theory is that most salads are better if they have bacon in them, and Italian salad calls for Italian bacon.  It adds a nice additional flavor.  If you don't have access to Pancetta, I think American bacon would do fine.  (Eric, I bet Pastrami would work too if you upped the mustard in the vinaigrette).

GSnyde’s Panzanella Salad

Servings: 4 side dish or 2 main dish


◦       3 tablespoons olive oil

◦       3 1-inch slices of French bread (2 to 3 day old is best)

◦       2 medium size firm ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

◦       1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced 1/2-inch thick

◦       1/3 of a red onions, thinly sliced

◦       10 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped

◦       2 1/8” thick slices  Pancetta, cut into ¼ inch pieces (optional)

◦       2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmagiano cheese

  • Vinaigrette

◦        1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced

◦        1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

◦        2 tablespoons champagne (or other white wine) vinegar

◦        2 tsp fresh lemon juice

◦        1/3 cup good olive oil

◦        1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

◦        1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


1.            Heat the oil in a large saute pan.

2.            Add the bread; fry over medium heat, turning frequently, until nicely browned.  Then cool on paper towel.  When cooled, tear into bite size pieces.

3.            In a separate pan with a bit of olive oil, fry the Pancetta until brown.

4.            Whisk all the Vinaigrette ingredients together.

5.            In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, basil, and Pancetta.

6.            Add the bread pieces and toss with the vinaigrette, 1 tsp of the Pancetta drippings and the Parmagiano.

7.            Season liberally with salt and fresh ground black pepper. 

Before serving, allow the salad to sit for 20-30 minutes (tossing occasionally) for the flavors to blend.

I made this salad last week with Tartine Basic Country Bread and it was fabuloso.  I tried it this week with leftover Focaccia and it turned to mush.  I think you gotta use a firm hearth bread.

I hope you enjoy it.



lumos's picture

Oooh, I love panzanella!  I totally agree with you that you have to use very good, ripe tomatoes to make this. That's why I only make it in summer when locally grown, really good tomatoes are available, which is not for a very long time in England, unfortunately.

I'm sure there're lots of different recipes, as many as chefs and mammas and nonnas in Tuscany, but  I always add anchovy and capers and, sometimes, black olives to my panzanella to my one, and sit it at least a few hours, sometimes overnight, in a fridge to develop the flavour,  based on recipes by my favourite Italian food writers, Marcella Hazan and Antonio Carluccio, and a chef, Giorgio Locatellli. 

When I managed to get hold of lovely ripe tomatoes, I'll surely try your idea of using pancetta/bacon. It seems a very nice, fresh and light version.  Thank you for sharing.

arlo's picture

Panzanella is delicious Glenn, so delicious I typically have it a few times a week on my break at the bakery. We grow our own basil, use local tomatoes and use up all the extra baguettes I made that didn't sell. Your vinaigrette sounds delightful though, next time I make panzanella I will give it a shot. I am acustomed to using balsamic and olive oil. Which is nice and all, but I do love dijon and champagne...

GSnyde's picture


My version of Panzanella is sorta Franco-Italian, with the mustard and Champagne vinegar.  The first recipe I tried (from Food Network) used those in the Vinaigrette, but with less lemon, and I think it had capers, which is not a favored ingredient for my salad-sharing partner.

Another tip: if you fry the bread in EVOO that's been infused with garlic and herbs, you get an extra layer of good flavor.


Syd's picture

Sounds lovely and refreshing: perfect for a summer salad.  Pics, pics, pics!  Oh, where are the pics?! :(

All the best to you Glenn,


GSnyde's picture

Sorry.  All I have is a bread camera.

Thanks for the comment.  I'll post a pic next time I make it.