A traditional Mediterranean recipe, panzanella is the only way to eat leftover bread that’s starting to go stale. Originally without tomatoes (they didn’t arrive in Italy until the 16th C), this rustic Italian salad would have been made using bread soaked in vinegar and water and served with onions and garden vegetables such as cucumber.
Today, however, a panzanella is not a panzanella without the addition of tomatoes. The sweet fruit, ripe from the end of summer, are cut up into a large bowl where stale bread soaks up the juice creating a thick creamy and tangy salad dressing. Add in anchovies and capers and this delicious dish represents all those flavours we have come to love about Italy.
Of course, this recipe is easily customisable and in the world of leftovers cooking there can be no hard and fast rules. I included sundried tomatoes and mozzarella in this take because that’s what I had in the fridge. Feel free to add and take away – just don’t throw anything away!
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Prep time: 15 minutes
Selection of juicy tomatoes
1/2 roasted capsicum
1 cheek of red onion
2 tbsp capers
100-200g leftover old bread
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
Take the tomatoes and cut them up into all different shapes and sizes and place in a large bowl. Using the back of a fork, gently press into them so they release much of their juices.
Next, take your old loaf of bread – note that store bought sliced bread is not great for this recipe as it stays soft and then moulds. You need to use an unsliced loaf that has started to go stale. Cut the bread into chunks, or rip it apart. Take a large frying pan and place it over a medium-high heat. Toast one third of the bread chunks until they are golden and on the cusp of charring and set aside.
With the rest of the bread, soak it in cold water. After about five minutes take the bread and squeeze out the water before adding to the tomatoes.
Cut the roasted capsicum into strips and finely slice the red onion cheek before adding them to the tomatoes and bread. Finally add in the capers, anchovies and any other optionals you are using, before seasoning with salt and pepper. Toss everything together.
For the dressing combine equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil and pour over the salad immediately before serving with the reserved toasted bread chunks.