Healthy Panzanella Salad is a quick and easy salad made from tomatoes and (often stale) bread. Also known as Italian Bread Salad or Panmolle it is an effortless way to make an impressive salad!
🤍 Recipe highlights
The reasons why you will love this recipe and want to make it time and time again are summarised in the points below:
- Versatile: be it a weekend BBQ, pot luck or picnic, this salad works for so many occasions! Serve it on its own or pair with grilled meats such as chicken or cooked fish.
- Everyday ingredients: the ingredients needed to make the recipe are simple and easy to find at the local supermarket. You won't need to go to any gourmet stores or the deli as the ingredients are very common.
- Healthy, bright and colourful: this salad ticks a lot of boxes! It is healthy, packed with pops of colour and texture. Skip the boring garden salads and serve this for a nice change!
- Crunchy bread: the freshly toasted bread is one of the highlights of this recipe! Traditionally served with day old bread, the combination of crunchy flaky bread and moist tomatoes is a winner!
- Customise to suit your preferences: I offer suggestions for sub ins and outs in my substitutions and variations section for additional ideas to tick your boxes!
The photo below is to show you the everything you need to make the recipe. Refer to the printable recipe card for exact measurements.
As you can see, the recipe calls for:
- Bread: I use a crusty white loaf of bread. As much as you can use stale or day old bread, there is something to be said about freshly toasted same day baked bread, cooked then torn into pieces.
- Cherry tomatoes: these are the regular, everyday standard red cherry tomatoes.
- Medley tomatoes: this type of tomatoes are the coloured ones you see in the photo above and throughout the post. They are bright, different sizes and add pops of colour to the salad.
- Grape tomatoes: these are the small orange tomatoes you see. t/hey are excellent to use as they provide a great contrast to the red cherry tomatoes.
- Basil leaves: this herb works to not only provide colour but a herby zesty freshness to the recipe. It is very common to see basil used in Italian recipes.
- Anchovies: these little salted pieces of fish are a great addition to the salad both for their taste and texture. They also give a boost to the salad and something else to chow down on than just tomatoes and bread.
- Capers: these will be sold in brine, drain that but don't rinse them. These also bring texture to the salad and burst in your mouth when bitten!
- Salt: you can use sea salt, or regular table salt is fine if you don't have sea salt.
- Red wine vinegar: this delightful ingredient is the main component of dressing the salad. It has a fresh taste and light texture.
- Olive oil: standard olive oil is fine, no need to use extra virgin, unless you wish to.
Top Tip: when choosing your tomatoes, try to go for a variety of colours, shapes and sizes, this will add to the visual appeal of the salad!
Here are the step by step instructions to make the salad. We start by toasting the bread. You will need a knife and chopping board as well as cooking spray.
- Use a knife to slice the bread in half (Photo 1).
- Place on baking tray and spray with cooking oil (Photo 2).
- Use a knife and chopping board to slice tomatoes in half (Photo 3).
- Add chopped tomatoes to a bowl and season with salt (Photo 4).
How to make Healthy Panzanella Salad
To make the salad, start by preparing the bread for toasting. Slice in in half lengthways then place onto a baking tray and spray with cooking oil.
The spray oil helps get the bread all crispy and delicious also known as the crunch factor!
Once the bread is sorted, start to prepare the salad beginning with the tomatoes.
- Add basil leaves to tomatoes (Photo 5).
- Then drizzle olive oil over tomato basil mix (Photo 6).
- Add capers to salad (Photo 7).
- Next add the anchovies (Photo 8).
The anchovies and capers give both taste and texture to this salad. Whilst they are not traditional to every Panzanella Salad recipe, they are seriously delicious additions!
Once the bread is toasted, we remove it from the oven then use your hands to tear it into rough chunky pieces.
- Remove bread from oven once toasted, use a knife to cut (Photo 9).
- Then use fingers to tear the strips into rough pieces (Photo 10).
Cooking the bread in the way that we do allows us to have the texture of crispy toasted bread as well as the soft white centre which is revealed when the bread is torn! Croutons won't deliver this same effect as they are crunchy all over.
Having both textures within the bread pieces means that the red wine vinegar sops into the soft white untoasted bread pieces in a seriously delicious and enjoyable manner!
🍴 Serving suggestions
Each time I have made this salad, I have waited till the very last minute to remove the baking tray with bread from the oven.
There is something seriously delicious about warm, toasted, crunchy bread with the tomato salad, drizzled with vinegar, a unique experience for this beautiful salad.
If you are not looking to serve your salad straight away, keep the toasting of the bread and drizzling with red wine vinegar till last.
That way your salad won't be soggy and your bread will be warm, toasted and delicious!
🎨 Variations and substitutions
As always, there might be a couple of things you want to substitute in or out for the recipe. Here are my suggestions:
- Add some cooked chicken to the salad.
- Use sardines instead of the anchovies.
- Add some spinach leaves (non traditional), but it works!
- Use toasted rye bread as an alternative to the white bread.
- Add some chopped feta cheese to the salad.
How to guide
How to Store
Store the salad as you have prepped it along the way, without plating until ready to serve.
Hold off on dressing the salad until moments prior to serving.
🧐 Frequently asked questions
What does Panzanella mean?
Panzanella refers to the pairing of bread and salad, having Tuscan Origins using tomatoes and a simple dressing.
Often served with red wine vinegar, it is a well balanced light salad that is filled out with torn pieces of crusty toasted bread.
This salad is most often served cold, but the bread can be freshly toasted from the oven given the salad a warm comforting appeal!
What do you serve with Panzanella Salad?
As this salad is light and versatile, it has a number of serving options that suit.
You can serve it with chicken, fish, ham or roast lamb. Or on its own as a light lunch!
It can be made and kept drizzle free, then topped with the dressing when you are read to serve it.
Take it to a BBQ, pot luck or picnic! This salad works for so many occasions.
Is panzanella good the next day?
Panzanella salad leftovers can be consumed the next day and they still taste good!
One thing is to ensure excess dressing has been siphoned off as to avoid the salad turning soggy. Also toasted more bread (fresh) that day works as a next day consumption idea.
These tips are to help you master this recipe from the 1st time you make it:
- Use a knife and chopping board for the tomato and bread prep.
- No need to chop the basil, add the full leaves as they are!
- The bread won't have any softness if you cut it into pieces before toasting, toast the ½ loaf and tear to reveal soft fluffy bread.
- Do all of the prep but hold off dressing till ready to serve to avoid soggyness.
The bursts of the capers contrast beautifully with the salty chewy anchovies and each mouthful is pure bliss!
More light and easy recipes
This salad is perfect on its own or a great pairing to the Garlic Pizza Bread. If entertaining, brunching and lunching are your thing, try these ideas:
- Caprese Bruschetta
- Haloumi Wrap
- Roast Chicken Salad (using store bought chicken)
- Watermelon Cucumber Feta Salad
- Caprese Pesto Pasta Salad
- Herb Salad
- Sardine Salad
Or check out all of my salad recipes for inspiration!
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Healthy Panzanella Salad
- Chopping board
- Serving platter
- 4 cups mixed tomatoes Note 1
- 1 Vienna bread loaf Note 2
- 6 anchovies Note 3, drained, not rinsed
- ¼ cup capers drained, not rinsed
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ bunch basil leaves pulled from stem
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Preheat the oven: turn the oven on to 180°C / 350-375°F / Gas Mark 4-5.
- Cook the bread: line a baking tray with baking paper, cut your loaf of bread in half lengthways, place cut side up on baking tray and spray with cooking oil. Place in oven till toasted and golden (approximately 5 to 10 mins).
- Prepare the tomatoes: meanwhile cut your tomatoes in halves and quarters, add to a medium size bowl and season with salt.
- Add remaining salad ingredients: pull basil leaves from stems add to tomatoes, followed by capers and anchovies.
- Prepare the bread: once bread is toasted use a knife to roughly chop into strips and fingers to pull into chunky pieces.
- Plate: transfer the salad onto the platter starting with the bread, then tomato salad combination. Provide dressing, but hold off drizzling till ready to serve.
- To serve: when ready to serve drizzle olive oil over salad, then drizzle bread pieces and salad with red wine vinegar.
- Note 1 I use a combination of shapes, sizes and textures for this salad. Try and go for both red and orange tomatoes or purchase a 'medley' pack for variety then add in some smaller cherry tomatoes.
- Note 2 This is approximately 50 grams of anchovies. So if you get a 100 gram bottle or tin, you can use ½ for this recipe and ½ for another!
- Note 3 You can use sourdough, rye bread, Vienna, Tiger bread, a baguette. The key is to use bread that is at least one day old so it is state and a little crusty!
Recipe published Jan 2021, updated August 2022 with more helpful tips, original recipe.