Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan summer salad made with ripe, juicy tomatoes, slivers of mild red onions, fresh basil, chunks of day-old bread and copious amounts of the best olive oil. It is a typical example of Tuscan frugality, utilizing what is fresh and in season and then stretching it just a little more, in this case, with the addition of bread left over from the night before.
Although this salad is a masterpiece in its simplicity, it becomes even better with the addition of a few favorite, summertime ingredients. My Greek version of panzanella has a few more seasonal vegetables added, along with Kalamata olives and Feta cheese. The addition of oregano instead of the basil gives the salad an unmistakable Greek flavor profile. The chunks of bread soak up the juices of the ripe tomatoes and the simple garlic-oregano dressing makes every bite sweet, tangy, and bold, all at the same time.
This Greek panzanella does not need to be assembled the last minute, which is helpful when we need to tend to other components of a meal. It is also substantial enough that it can be a light meal on its own. I hope that you try this salad before the end of summer, while the tomatoes are still at the peak of their flavor!
- 4 cups day-old rustic bread, cut into 1” cubes
- 2 sm. sweet baby bell peppers (red or yellow or one of each)
- 1 sm. English cucumber, partially peeled, seeded & cut in cubes
- 3 cups ripe summer tomatoes, cut into chunks (or grape or cherry tomatoes)
- ¼ sm. red onion, sliced thinly
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, cut in half
- 1 cup Greek Feta cheese in brine, drained and cut into cubes
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
- 1 med clove of garlic, pressed
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- Prepare all the vegetables. Slice the little peppers into ribbons. Cut the cucumber lengthwise, remove the seeds, and cut it again into cubes. Cut the tomatoes into ½” chunks. (If using grape or cherry tomatoes, cut them in half.) Slice the red onion very thinly (see note below). Place all vegetables in a large bowl.
- To the bowl, add the cubes of bread and the olives and mix.
- Make the vinaigrette. Place everything in a glass jar and shake well to incorporate all the ingredients. Pour two-thirds of the vinaigrette over the vegetables and mix well, set the rest aside. Add the Feta cheese and mix again gently. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more dressing if necessary.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled as either a first course or a side dish.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram @marilenaleavitt.