Enjoy all the flavors of Italy without leaving your backyard with this rustic Panzanella Salad recipe. My version of this Tuscan bread salad is the perfect way to highlight those juicy summer tomatoes. Enjoy this salad as a light lunch, as a delicious BBQ side dish or add some protein for a complete meal!
Everyone has their favorite foods to eat seasonally. As soon as garden tomatoes hit the market, this Panzanella Salad is my go-to meal all summer long.
Never had it before? Panzanella Salad is a rustic Tuscan salad made from some of summer's best produce - like juicy tomatoes and fragrant basil - along with fresh mozzarella, toasted bread cubes and a briny, homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It's the perfect salad to bring to any BBQ.
Why this recipe is so great
- If you like caprese salad, you're going to love this bread salad. It's essentially summer in your mouth with the juiciest summer tomatoes, fragrant basil, crunchy bread cubes, silky mozzarella and a balsamic vinaigrette made with capers for extra zesty flavor.
- You can make most of the salad ahead of time and assemble 30 minutes before serving. No last minute preparation! In fact, it tastes best when you let it sit at room temperature for a while as the dressing gently softens the bread croutons.
- It's perfect for vegetarians AND meat lovers as you can serve it on its own or pair it with a protein fresh off the grill. It's one of our favorite BBQ side dishes that always disappears.
Seek out the freshest ingredients you can find. Out of season tomatoes will not do this salad justice.
Start by toasting your bread cubes. You want them to be well-toasted so they are sturdy enough to soften gradually in the vinaigrette dressing.
Shake up your vinaigrette in a mason jar. Add salad ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Drizzle with vinaigrette and stir again. Let salad sit for 30 minutes before serving.
Panzanella is best up to two hours after it's assembled. If you leave it sit too long in the dressing, the bread cubes become soggy.
Since this salad doesn't keep well long term, you can easily make it in stages to maximize prep time. Make the dressing and toast the bread cubes a few days ahead of time. Chop the onion and mozzarella a day ahead, too. An hour before you serve the dish, you can chop the tomatoes and basil and combine everything 30 minutes before you eat.
I've been known to make it a meal, but if you have guests with larger appetites, you can easily add a grilled protein to this salad. Tip: an Italian-seasoned or marinated chicken breast is fantastic with Panzanella.
I specify a baguette for this recipe because they are pretty universal in size but you can also use a hearty artisan loaf like sourdough or ciabatta. You want to stay away from lighter, fluffier breads as they tend to break down in this salad even when toasted.
Expert tips for making this Panzanella Salad
- Fresh is best: Fresh produce really makes a difference in this salad. Seek out the freshest, juiciest tomatoes, fragrant basil and milky mozzarella you can find.
- Time saving tips: Short on time? You can prep this salad in stages so it's a breeze to throw together at the last minute. Toast the bread cubes a few days ahead of time and store in an airtight container or bag. You can also make the vinaigrette several days in advance and dice the mozzarella a day before serving.
- Toast the bread: Toasted bread works best in this recipe because it keeps the bread from becoming soggy in the salad. You can toast either fresh or stale bread to make the bread cubes but fresh bread will require a longer toasting time than stale bread.
- Let it sit: I let the vinaigrette soak into the salad for about 30 minutes before serving. This usually softens the bread cubes enough for me without making them soggy but feel free to experiment with longer or shorter times if you prefer.
- Large or small: You can make this salad as a large side dish for a group or keep the prepped bread and other ingredients separate to create individual portions throughout the week.
More summer tomato salads
Did you make this recipe? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please rate the recipe and leave a comment below. Your feedback helps us and your fellow readers!
- 1 baguette, cut into bite-sized cubes
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ¾ teaspoons salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1½ pounds tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place baguette pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Spread bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15-18 minutes or to desired degree of toastiness, stirring once. Set aside to cool.
- Combine ½ teaspoon salt, garlic, balsamic vinegar and capers in a small bowl. Gently whisk in ⅓ cup olive oil until combined. Set aside.
- Stir together bread cubes, tomatoes, onion, mozzarella and basil. Pour balsamic vinaigrette over bread cube mixture and stir to coat. Allow the salad to sit 30 minutes before serving.
- Use the best ingredients you can find. They really do make a difference in the overall flavor of the dish.
- The prep time includes 30 minutes of salad sitting at room temperature before serving.
- Short on time? Prep this salad in stages. Toast the bread and make the vinaigrette a few days ahead of time. Chop the cheese and vegetables a few hours before and toss everything together 30 minutes before serving.
- You can easily add a grilled protein to this salad to make it a complete meal.
Nutrition info not guaranteed to be accurate.