Panzanella Salad

A classic Italian panzanella salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and a red wine vinegar and anchovy dressing

Panzanella may just be the perfect salad. It doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, I would say it’s a top-tier salad, up there with a Caesar. And you know I love a Caesar Salad. It’s packed with the most delicious seasonal ingredients and is super refreshing—exactly what I want to eat in the summer. While you can certainly enjoy it year-round, the classic version with cucumbers and tomatoes shines best with in-season produce. Nonetheless, I’m open to creating variations for every season. Maybe I’ll expand this into a seasonal Panzanella series. Panzanella year-round!

This salad has become a staple in our home, especially since we often have an abundance of extra bread. From neighbors dropping off baguettes and Greek holiday loaves, to our regular bread purchases, we always have more than we can eat fresh. So for any extra bread we have, into the freezer it goes, and while some gets made into croutons, breadcrumbs, or used for various whipped ricotta toasts or sardine toasts, one of the best (and most delicious) ways to use it up is in a Panzanella salad. So, if you have any stale or day-old bread, I highly encourage you to try this. I promise you’ll be making Panzanella salads all summer long.

Jump to Recipe
Panzanella Salad Stale Bread for Panzanella
I would say it’s a top-tier salad, up there with a Caesar. And you know I love a Caesar Salad.
Canned Anchovies
Panzanella Salad Dressing

What is panzanella salad?

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad. It’s most common in central Italy, and famous for being from the region of Tuscany. It’s a classic dish from the cucina povera or “poor kitchen” in Italian, that’s known for using modest, humble ingredients and letting nothing go to waste. And panzanella was one way that leftover, stale bread was used and made into something super delicious.

Panzanella is traditionally made by combing stale bread, that gets rehydrated with some cold water and the juices from the various other ingredients in the salad. The dressing sharp and pungent and the bread absorbs all the flavors of the salad ingredients. It’s a refreshing and super satisfying salad.

Essentially it’s a “salad with bread cubes”.

Classic Panzanella Salad

What ingredients do I need to make a panzanella salad?


This is a recipe that calls for stale bread. Day old bread or any leftover bread is a god bet. You can also toast up some fresh bread if it’s all you have.

For this salad you want something that has texture to it like a classic Tuscan bread, ciabatta, Italian loaf, even a baguette would work in a pinch. I wouldn’t really recommend sour dough here, but you could use it if you really wanted to. The sour notes of the bread may be a bit much with all the other flavors going on so just keep that in mind.

What you most certainly don’t want to use is a basic sliced white loaf, a brioche, etc. You need something that won’t turn into complete mush when it gets mixed with the rest of the salad.


Any ripe delicious tomato works for this. Here I used a combination of some larger purple cocktail tomatoes and small sungold cherry tomatoes. Both are super flavorful and sweet. But use whatever is available and ripe.


I like Persian cucumbers for this, also labeled mini cucumbers or baby cucumbers. They’re small, seedless cucumbers with thin, tender skin. They’re super crisp, refreshing, and I would say a little sweeter than most cucumbers. I typically get them whenever I see them, especially since they tend to be available all year.

You can also certainly use a seedless, or English cucumber, or any other variety you like and have available. If it has too many seeds, remove them. And peel your cucumber if the skin is too thick.


Something mild like a shallot or a yellow onion would be my recommendation here, but you could also use a red onion if you want. And, if the raw onion is a bit too much for you, rinse it under cold water to remove some of that sharp onion flavor. Or, just omit it. That’s what I did here, I kinda forgot, so no onion in this version but it’s still very good.

What is in the panzanella salad dressing?

This dressing is based on Marcella Hazan’s Panzanella Salad Recipe from “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” The quantities are not the same but the general list of ingredients with those bold and bright flavors is very much in-line with her version.


I used some anchovies packed in oil. If you’re using the salt packed ones, you may need to quickly rise them in water to remove some of the salt. You only need 2 or 3 for this dressing so you’ll have some leftover. I would suggest using those to make a batch of caesar dressing.


Capers are small, green flower buds from the caper bush that get preserved by pickling or salt curing. They’re tangy, salty and used in lots of Mediterranean dishes. Think pasta puttanesca or chicken piccata.

They’re a pretty major component of the dressing so get the best ones you can. I used capers in brine here, but feel free to use salt packed ones. Rinse them off before adding them to your dressing or it’s going to be way, way too salty.


Just your basic garlic here. Adjust the amount to whatever you like. The original recipe I looked at from Marcella Hazan used only 1/2 a clove. I used a full clove and went for it. Use as much as you like.

Red Wine Vinegar

You want a classic red wine vinegar here. Nothing too strong or overly acidic. Get a good one, it’ll last you a while and you’ll use it in so many other salads.

How do I make this Panzanella Salad Recipe?

  1. To make the dressing you want to finely chop your anchovies until they become a paste. Add to a bowl with garlic, capers, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix. Check for seasoning and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat you oven to 300°F. Tear bread into bite sized chunks and drizzle with olive oil. You want to let the bread toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. You want it dried out, and crunchy, but ideally no color on it. If it does get a little brown, no big deal, it’ll still be delish.
  3. Get your tomatoes, cucumbers and onions (if using) chopped up. Sliced. Diced.
  4. Then to assembled the salad, you want to combine the toasted bread, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl. Spoon over your dressing and mix well. Let the panzanella salad sit for at least 10 minutes, 20 would be better. You want the cucumbers and tomatoes to release their juices and soften and season the bread. Toss again, check for seasoning, add in you basil and serve it up.

What are some variations on a panzanella salad?

Winter Panzanella Salad

Any combination on seasonal winter produce like squash, pears, shaved Brussel’s sprouts and pomegranate seeds. You could even try making it with a pumpernickel or seeded, whole grain bread.

Panzanella Salad with Chicken

If you want to bulk up the salad a bit, and make it more or a full meal. Grill up a thin chicken cutlet, then pile plenty of that panzanella right on top. Similar to the grilled chicken paillard I love to make. Perfect easy summer dinner.

Grilled Panzanella

Get creative with this one. Grill up the bread and some seasonal veggies like zucchini or summer squash for this panzanella salad. The charr flavor from the grill is a nice extra touch to the salad.

Grilled Peach Panzanella Salad

Add in a few grilled peaches, maybe even a little fresh mint. I’m definitely making this one!

Panzanella Salad with Shrimp

Top the salad with some grilled or poached shrimp. So simple and so good!

Panzanella with Burrata

This is kinda a must. While panzanella doesn’t classically have cheese in it, this would certainly be an instance where a ball, or two, of burrata would be perfect.

Panzanella Salad with Tuna

One of my favorites! A panzanella with tuna. I like a tinned or jarred tuna in oil for this. Crack it open and layer the tuna right on top of the salad, a little extra dressing on the fish and dig in.

Panzanella Salad
Pin Recipe
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Panzanella Salad

A classic Italian panzanella salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and a red wine vinegar and anchovy dressing
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Lunch, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: bread salad, italian salad, Panzanella, salad
Servings: 2


For The Dressing

  • 2 anchovies
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp capers drained and/or rinsed
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For The Salad

  • 3 Persian cucumbers or 1/2 large seedless cucumber, diced
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes - halved and quartered, or 1 large tomato diced
  • 1/4 onion finely sliced, *optional
  • 4 slices bread
  • 1 handful basil leaves


  • To make dressing, finely chop anchovies until they become a paste. Add to a bowl with finely minced garlic, capers, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Taste for seasoning.
  • Pre-heat oven to 300°F. Tear bread into bite sized chunks, drizzle with olive oil and toast bread in oven for approximately 10 minutes or until bread is toasted but hasn’t taken on any color.
  • Get your tomatoes and cucumber diced. Slice onion. (The onion is optional, I didn’t any here, but occasionally I do.)
  • To make salad, combine toasted bread, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions (if using) in a large bowl. Add in your dressing and toss well. Let salad sit for at least 10 minutes, 20 would be better. You want the cucumbers and tomatoes to release their juices and soften and season the bread. Toss again and check for seasoning. Add in you basil and serve.
Most Hungry Emblem
Want more recipes like this delivered right to your inbox?

Sign-up to the Substack newsletter below:


Related Posts

Leave Me A Comment

One thought on Panzanella Salad

  1. 5 stars
    I just happen to have all the right ingredients to make this salad. Sounds like the perfect dinner for today.

5 from 1 vote

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating