This Panzanella Toscana (also known as panmolle) is made with toasted ciabatta bread, shallots, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil tossed in a delicious panzanella dressing for a flavorful and chewy Italian salad recipe!
Fresh tomato salad recipes are my favorite because they are juice, light and refreshing! Be sure to try my Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad and Tomato, Olive, and Artichoke Salad for more delicious Italian appetizer recipes. Each of these tastes delicious alongside my Chicken Caprese Sandwich!
Why This Recipe Works
- Juicy tomatoes. In this panzanella Toscana recipe, the tomatoes are salted to help expel their juices and enhance their flavor. The juice from the tomatoes is then used in the panzanella dressing. This enhances the flavor and makes a big difference!
- Fresh flavors. Using the fresh basil makes a big difference in elevating the freshness of this panzanella salad. The fresh basil provides an aromatic element and a hint of sweetness you wouldn’t get with dried basil. It’s all about the fresh ingredients in this summer salad recipe!
- Exquisite textures. I love this panzanella recipe because of the different textures. This bread salad is made with chewy bread that holds its own with the dressing, yet has incorporated those delicious flavors! The thicker bread holds a subtle crunch, and paired with the juicy tomatoes and sharp red wine vinegar is the perfect refreshing salad!
- Mixed Tomatoes: You can use cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, etc. I like the variety of color, so I chose some yellow, red and multi-colored options. This is a fresh recipe, so you want good tomatoes that will bring the best flavor!
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is a coarser texture than table salt, so be sure to know the substitutions if a recipe calls or one or the other. If a recipe calls for Kosher salt, use 1/4 teaspoon less of table salt per teaspoon of salt. If a recipe calls for table salt, use 1/4 teaspoon more of Kosher salt per teaspoon.
- Ciabatta Bread: You can use ciabatta bread, French baguette, or sour dough bread. You’ll just want a bread that has a bit of a bite to it so it holds up with the panzanella Toscana dressing.
- Red Wine Vinegar: This gives a nice depth of flavor to the dressing and a bit of a sharp contract to the mellow olive oil flavor.
- Fresh Basil Leaves: Chop the basil leaves pretty well so they distribute throughout the panzanella Toscana salad. Using fresh basil will give you a brighter color and flavor.
- Expel the tomato juices. Place a colander over a large bowl. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle the kosher salt. Stir the tomatoes and let rest for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to help the tomatoes juices come out.
- Toast the ciabatta bread. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Drizzle the bread with 2 T of the olive oil. Toss to coat. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until golden. The bread should be crisp but not browned. Remove and let cool.
- Make the panzanella dressing. Take the tomato juice that was drained from the tomatoes and to the bowl add the shallot, garlic, Dijon mustard, and red wine vinegar. Whisk until combined. While whisking, add the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine the Tuscan panzanella salad recipe. Add the toasted bread, tomatoes, chopped basil and dressing to the bowl. Toss until combined. Let rest for 15-30 minutes or until the bread has absorbed the dressing. Serve!
What to Serve with Panzanella
- Italian Grilled Chicken
- Italian Cream Soda
- Turkey Spinach Meatballs and Spaghetti
- Pesto Tortellini Pasta
- Shredded Beef Ragu
- Crockpot Lasagna with Ricotta Cheese
Using fresh basil will give you a more potent basil flavor than if you use dried basil.
Letting the salted tomatoes sit over a colander will help expel the juices, which will be used to make the dressing. Be sure to give the tomatoes the full 20 minutes (stirring occasionally to encourage the juices to come) to get the best results. You can just let them sit at room temperature.
Make sure the toasted ciabatta is slightly golden, not browned. You don’t want the bread to be overly toasted. A slight golden color will give you the perfect texture of bread when combined with the dressing.
Be sure to use fresh bread that has been toasted in the oven. You won’t get as good of a texture (or flavor) if you use stale bread.
Using extra virgin olive oil will provide a stronger olive flavor.
I love the simplicity of this Tuscan panzanella salad. However, some recipes include additional ingredients. If you would like to add a few more ingredients, some good options are diced cucumber, diced bell pepper, capers, and olives.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
Because of the bread, this recipe should be made the day you want to serve it. If you make it in advance, the bread will get soggy.
Store any leftover panzanella salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
No. Due to the bread absorbing the panzanella Toscana dressing, the salad should be enjoyed the day it is made.
It’s a traditional Italian salad made with toasted bread, fresh tomatoes, basil and a dressing.
You technically can, but I highly recommend the fresh basil. Fresh basil has a much more potent basil flavor that will come through in the salad more than if you were to use the dried herb.
You either didn’t use a firm enough bread, didn’t toast it enough or let the bread sit for too long in the dressing. Any of those can contribute to a soggy panzanella.
I wouldn’t. Stale bread is tough. You won’t get the right texture or flavor if you use stale bread.
More Italian Dishes
- Focaccia Bread
- Boursin Pasta
- Best Bolognese Sauce
- Sheet Pan Italian Sausage and Veggies
- Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
- 2 pounds mixed tomatoes - cherry, grape, roma whatever you want.
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 oz ciabatta bread - or sour dough, cubed into 1 1/2 inch pieces. need 6 cups worth
- 10 tablespoons olive oil - divided
- 1 small shallot - minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic - minced, about 3-4 cloves
- 3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper - to taste
- 1/2 cup basil leaves - packed, chopped
- Place the tomatoes in a colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle the kosher salt over the tomatoes. Use a spoon and stir the salt and tomatoes. Let rest for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Let the tomatoes drain.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place the bread cubes on the baking sheet and drizzle 2 T of olive oil over the bread. Toss to coat. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until just barely golden. The bread should be crisp and firm but not browned. Remove from oven and let the bread cool.
- Remove the colander with the tomatoes from the bowl. There should be some tomato juice in the large bowl now. To that tomato juice add the minced shallot, garlic, Dijon mustard, and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine. While whisking drizzle in the remaining ½ cup of olive oil. Taste the dressing and season with salt & pepper to taste.
- In a serving bowl add the toasted bread and tomatoes from the colander, and the chopped basil. Pour the dressing overtop, and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt & pepper if needed. Let rest for 15-30 minutes until the bread has absorbed the dressing and then serve.
- Store covered, in the fridge for up to 1 day.