Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) is one of my favourite salads – it’s the epitome of spring and summer for me. And not only is it super-easy to make (no cooking!), it’s a great way to use up stale bread.
It’s said that Italians never throw anything away – certainly this tends to be true where food is concerned, especially bread.
For many Italians, bread is a spiritual food because it represents the body of Christ (and for some, transubstantiation means it actually is Corpus Christi), so to throw away bread, even when stale, is considered sacrilege.
Much of Italy is rural, so many country-dwelling Italians tend to be frugal people, ergo, really, it’s just common sense to use up as much as you can. More food – less waste.
Which type of bread to use, though?
Naturally, pane sciocco is the most authentic but I think it defeats the purpose to buy bread especially to use in this dish… this is cucina povera after all – we use what we have to hand.
When I lived in the south of Italy, my panzanella was more often than not, made with pane cafone – a type of sourdough – because that was almost the only type of bread I could buy in Pozzuoli.
Now I’m in Slovenia – and have an oven again – I either use my own sourdough bread or some of the locally-baked stuff, which is also very robust.
(Pane sciocco, by the way, is also excellent for making my bruschetta.)
Some people advocate toasting the bread first, or spraying with oil and then baking it in the oven – I don’t know any Italians who do this. Why make life complicated? I’m with Carluccio on this – great food should be MOFMOF; Minimum Of Effort – Maximum Of Flavour!
Simple Vegan Panzanella
- incredibly easy to make
- full of goodness (Vitamin A 12%, Vitamin C 20%, Calcium 7%, Iron 10% RDV)
- great as a side dish or as a meal in its own right
- really yummy
Enjoy the taste of Italy – buon appetito!
Have you ever had panzanella? What’s your favourite Italian dish?
Simple Vegan Panzanella
- 2 thick slices stale bread
- 150 g cucumber
- 2 large plum tomatoes
- ½ medium-sized red onion
- 50 g c.2 oz black olives
- 10 fresh basil leaves torn
- 2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- dash sea salt
- 2 tbsp vegan parmesan
- ground black pepper
- Lightly moisten the bread under running water - it should be moist but not soggy. Give it a gentle squeeze to ensure it's wet all the way through, and to remove any excess water. Set aside for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and cucumber, and finely slice the onion. Add to a large bowl.
- Break the bread into bite-sized pieces, and add to the salad bowl.
- Add the olives and the basil.
- Whisk together the oil and lemon juice until it has emulsified, then add to the salad.
- Add the salt, and gently mix everything together with your hands.
- Sprinkle over the vegan parmesan.
- Finish with a few grinds of black pepper.
- Serve immediately.
- Some people like to crumble the bread so it resembles cous-cous but being honest, I prefer my panzanella to be more chunky. I find it more satisfying like that.
- Do feel free to adjust the oil and lemon juice ratio to suit your own taste.
- If you don't want to serve the panzanella immediately, it can be made up to 30 minutes in advance; chill in the 'fridge before serving.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tbsp = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml