Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad

One of my favorite ways to experience the culture of a new place when traveling is to take a cooking class.  It’s a great way to pick up some new skills, learn about local ingredients and food customs, and it’s just plain fun.

The first cooking class I ever took was in a quaint family villa in the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I can still taste the freshness of the homemade buffalo mozzarella we sampled eight years later.  One of the first dishes we made in the class was a rustic panzanella salad, and it’s been on my list of go to summer recipes ever since.

Panzanella Salad in Italy

Panzanella salad at its base is day old bread that’s crispy on the inside by softened on the outside with the juice of freshly chopped tomatoes.  You can really go crazy with the other vegetables or protein you add to this base (and believe me I do!), but this time I decided to go with the classic version we made on that beautiful morning in Italy.

Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Tuna

 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 8 oz loaf ciabatta or other Italian bread, torn into bite size pieces and left out overnight to harden
  • 12 oz largely diced pomodoro or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 oz halved green olives
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 oz canned tuna
  • 1 small shallot thinly sliced
  • 2 large bunches of basil, torn
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz burrata or mozarella cheese

Panzanella is traditionally used with day old bread for good reason; it’s important that the bread by hardened in order to get the mix of soft and chewy with crispy and crunchy.  If you’re planning in advance, tear the loaf of bread into bite size pieces the night before you plan on making the salad and leave it out to harden.  If you want to make the salad the day of, just bake the pieces of bread in a 300 degree oven for 20-30 minutes to achieve the same result.

Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Tuna

Start by prepping your produce.  Dice tomatoes, chop olives, mince garlic, and thinly slice the shallot.  Combine all of those ingredients in a large mixing bowl, being careful to keep as much of the tomato juices as possible.  They are the foundation of the salad!  Stir to combine.

Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Tuna

Next, add the tuna, torn basil, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and kosher salt.  Stir to combine all of the ingredients and let sit for at least 15 minutes (a little longer is better if you have the time).  The salt will start to react with the tomatoes and they will release even more of their juices.  The tomatoes themselves will become more flavorful as a result and the juice is what softens the crispy exterior of the bread.

Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Tuna

Finally, to bring it all together add the bread to the rest of the salad working in batches and stir to combine.  Adding the bread in batches helps to make sure you get the right balance of bread to tomato dressing ratio.  Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are you might need less bread than the full small loaf.

Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Tuna

I like to let the bread meld with the rest of the salad for another half an hour or so to really soak up the juices, but you can skip this step if you’re pressed for time or if you prefer your bread on the crispier side.

Spoon the salad onto individual plates and top each with fresh burrata or mozzarella cheese.  Panzanella salad isn’t traditionally served with burrata, but it pairs so dang well that I can’t not do it.

Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Tuna

The tomatoes are bright and acidic, the olives tangy and briny, and the tuna brings a saltiness to the salad that just works.  The creamy, sweet burrata on top is just the icing on the cake.

Bon appétit!

Rustic Italian Panzanella Salad

This rustic Italian salad is a perfect way to use all those summer tomatoes.  The addition of bread and tuna make this hearty enough for a main meal that's perfectly light.  

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Italian, Mediterranean
Prep Time 15 minutes
Resting Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small loaf ciabatta or other Italian bread torn into bite size pieces and left out overnight to harden
  • 12 oz largely diced pomodoro or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 oz halved green olives
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 oz canned tuna
  • 1 small shallot thinly sliced
  • 2 large bunches of basil torn
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz burrata or fresh mozarella

Instructions

  1. If you're planning in advance, tear the loaf of bread into bite size pieces the night before you plan on making the salad and leave it out to harden. If you want to make the salad the day of, just bake the pieces of bread in a 300 degree oven for 20-30 minutes to achieve the same result.
  2. Start by prepping your produce. Dice tomatoes, chop olives, mince garlic, and thinly slice the shallot. Combine all of those ingredients in a large mixing bowl, being careful to keep as much of the tomato juices as possible. Stir to combine.

  3. Next, add the tuna, torn basil, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and kosher salt. Stir to combine all of the ingredients and let sit for at least 15 minutes
  4. Finally, add the bread to the rest of the salad in batches and stir to combine. Adding the bread in batches helps to make sure you get the right balance of bread to tomato dressing ratio. Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are you might need less bread than the full small loaf.

  5. Let the bread meld with the rest of the salad for another half an hour or so to really soak up the juices

  6. Spoon the salad onto individual plates and top each with fresh burrata or mozzarella cheese

 

 



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