Back-to-back: Simple Panzanella

You’d be forgiven, lately, for thinking that I’m on an extended holiday. But here in the UK, we kind of all are. Easter plus a certain upcoming wedding means back-to-back four-day weekends and an understandable amount of laziness in between. But for myself, the laziness is at a minimum; heading up to Andrew’s parents’ last weekend and getting ready for a visit from my parents this week means I haven’t had a lot of time for cooking or blogging.

I still have to eat though, and the spring produce at the market is nothing short of inspiring. I’m loving tomatoes of all kinds lately and have been eating them in everything from creamy soups to roasted Mediterranean-inspired meals. My current favourite is Panzanella, the Tuscan salad of stale bread and chopped tomatoes.

Traditionally just a way of using up leftover bread, many modern Panzanella recipes go a step or two further and contain roasted peppers, cucumber, olives and/or cheese. But you’ll note that my recipe is a “simple” one; drying the bread out in the oven is about as much effort as I like to make a tomato salad. And that step isn’t even necessary if you use stale bread, like the leftover focaccia I particularly favour.

I bet this recipe would be just as tasty with any number of additions, and I plan to try out a version with chopped anchovies and capers soon. But keep in mind that the simpler you keep the dish, the quicker it is to make. Perfect for those of us with busy schedules.


Simple Panzanella

serves 2, or more as a side

  • 2 cups torn bread, preferably stale
  • olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • handful fresh basil, roughly torn

  1.   If your bread is fresh, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F and get out a non-stick baking sheet. Toss the bread chunks with a glug of olive oil and arrange on the sheet, then bake for 6-8 minutes until just beginning to dry out. Be careful not to over-crisp or brown the bread, and don’t bother with this step if your bread is at all stale.
  2.  Meanwhile, place the cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the onion, another glug of olive oil, and the rest of the ingredients. Toss together and allow to sit for at least ten minutes- the salt and dressing will “pull” the moisture from the tomatoes. Remove and discard the garlic clove before adding the bread.
  3.  When the bread has cooled completely (if applicable), add to the bowl and toss well. You may need to add a little more olive oil to moisten everything well. Serve immediately, as a main or a side.
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