When I was growing up, the words “panzanella salad” evoked feelings of childish disgust. This, admittedly, is not something you’d expect to hear from the author of this article, so let me explain.
No kid wants vegetables for dinner. And if they do, it might just be a tradeoff for their favorite dessert later. So, no, it wasn’t my favorite thing to grace the dinner table, but it wasn’t long until that changed. Once I owned my own home, did my own grocery shopping and cooked my own meals, suddenly the simple, cheap and delicious panzanella became my very favorite thing to make and enjoy. Who would’ve thought?
If you’re not familiar, panzanella is a popular Tuscan salad that made its way over the pond to become a beloved dish in Italian American households. The origins of panzanella can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages when Tuscany was an agricultural region with an abundance of bread and vegetables. Making panzanella salad was a way to use up any stale bread and make a delicious meal out of simple ingredients. In fact, the name “panzanella” comes from the Tuscan word “panzana,” which literally means “soaked bread.”
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Traditionally, panzanella salad is made with leftover stale bread and whatever ingredients you have on hand, making it especially perfect for the summer when fresh vegetables are most abundant. You’ll often see it made with chickpeas, red onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, cucumber and a light dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic, and salt and pepper.
Panzanella variations are based on regional differences and personal preferences. Some alterations include the addition of tuna or anchovies, capers, olives, peppers or even grilled chicken.
The way the bread is prepared varies, too. Some go rustic, tearing the bread into small pieces then toasting with salt and pepper before adding it to the salad, while others prefer to keep the bread soft or soak it in water and vinegar. Whichever way it’s made, panzanella’s incorporation of veggies, carbs and protein allow it to stand on its own as the main course of any meal.
Tailoring your panzanella salad to the seasons is one of the best ways to use up what’s already in your fridge, making it both cost-effective and essentially no waste. Need ideas? Try Bon Appetit’s spring panzanella with snap peas and asparagus. Summer’s the time for tomatoes, corn, zucchini and burrata – the star of this recipe from Dishing Out Health. Food52 recommends mixing in squash for fall, and brussels sprouts and dried cranberries are great additions for winter.
Watch to see how easy it is to combine everything together:
Hungry? Can’t say we blame you. Find the kitchen gadgets you’ll need to prepare the perfect panzanella in our curated shopping list below.
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Will you be trying panzanella salad soon? Tell us in the comments.
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