Panzanella! A fun name for a bold summertime salad. Panzanella is Italy’s delicious solution for extra tomatoes and stale bread.
This panzanella salad is my take on the classic. It features ripe tomatoes, crisp homemade croutons, fresh cucumber and basil, and mozzarella under a simple, zippy vinaigrette. It’s a study in textures and refreshing Italian flavors.
I’m in love with this panzanella salad recipe and think you will be, too. It avoids all of the potential panzanella pitfalls. Some panzanellas are mushy, bland or watery—not this one.
This panzanella salad makes use of small tomatoes, which are less watery and less likely to be mushy. It’s composed on a large platter in layers, which is key to its good looks. You decide how long to let the salad rest before serving—the croutons soften up with time, in the best way.
Great tomatoes are absolutely essential, so hurry and make this panzanella while you still can!
Authentic Panzanella vs. This Recipe
My recipe differs somewhat from truly authentic panzanella. Florentine panzanella makes use of stale bread by soaking it in water and wringing it out. Then, it readily soaks up the tomato juice, olive oil and vinegar.
My recipe is more like the panzanella you’ll find on American menus. Since I’m a sucker for crispy homemade croutons, I opted to turn stale bread into hearty croutons instead.
The oil on the outside helps the repel tomato juice, but as the salad rests, some croutons will inevitably start absorbing some. I love the contrast of the crisp edges with a soft, pillowy, tomato-y side.
Classic panzanella is also made with a more pared down ingredient list, although mine really isn’t very long. You may or may not find cucumber, mozzarella, olives and/or capers, dried oregano and garlic in Italian panzanella, but they’re so good!
Watch How to Make Layered Panzanella Salad
Here’s what you’ll need to make this panzanella recipe:
You’ll only need one-fourth of a loaf, so this really is the perfect use for stale leftover bread. Use ciabatta, sourdough or French bread. You can use whole grain if you’d like. I would have, if I could have found it!
You can’t make a great panzanella without great tomatoes. I highly recommend using cherry tomatoes and other smaller tomatoes to make panzanella.
Large tomatoes can be so soft and juicy that they completely break down when sprinkled with salt. We want our salad to be a little juicy, but also substantial, so smaller tomatoes are key.
Crisp cucumber is a refreshing addition. Persian (mini) cucumbers are my favorite. You can also use a standard cucumber—if it’s particularly seedy, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds first.
Mozzarella is optional, but offers a hearty, creamy component. Buy one ball of fresh mozzarella and tear it into small pieces, or opt for cute little mozzarella balls like I did.
Basil makes this salad so fresh and green! Don’t skip it.
Red onion is standard, and offers some crisp, pungent heat. I tempered the onion’s intensity by tossing it in the homemade vinaigrette and chilling it while working on the rest of the salad. The result is lightly pickled, lightly softened red onion—irresistible.
Kalamata olives and/or capers
Use your favorite or both. If you don’t like either, omit them altogether! I loved the briny, salty combination of the two. We’re only using two tablespoons total, so it’s a subtle effect.
Olive oil & red wine vinegar
We’ll toss the bread in olive oil before baking so it gets extra crisp and golden. Then, we’ll stir together some additional olive oil with vinegar to make a vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is intentionally zippy, since we’ve already used olive oil to make the croutons and the tomato juice mellows out the flavor.
Garlic, salt, pepper & dried oregano
This salad isn’t complete without some standard Italian seasonings. Don’t skimp on the freshly ground black pepper and oregano—panzanella can handle it.
Hurry and make these recipes before summer ends:
- Classic Tomato Basil Bruschetta
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Easy Tomato Salad
- Heirloom Caprese Salad
- Pico de Gallo
- Tomato Gazpacho
Please let me know how your panzanella turns out in the comments! I can’t wait to hear from you.
Layered Panzanella Salad
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: Italian
This panzanella salad recipe is the best! It features loads of ripe tomatoes and fresh summertime produce, homemade croutons, and a light vinaigrette. Layering the ingredients on a large platter is key. Recipe yields 1 large salad, enough for 8 side servings.
- 4 ounces ciabatta or crusty sourdough bread, preferably stale (¼th of a standard 1-pound loaf or 3 cups cubed)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano, plus extra for garnish
- 1 large clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
- 1 pound additional tomatoes (smaller tomatoes are better), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 mini cucumbers or 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced into rounds
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, optional (buy small mozzarella balls or tear a larger ball into bite-sized pieces)
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped fresh basil (about ½ ounce)
- 2 tablespoons (total) thinly sliced Kalamata olives and/or capers
- To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If desired, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up.
- Slice your bread* into 1-inch cubes (no larger) and place them on the baking sheet. Drizzle the cubes with the olive oil, sprinkle them with the salt, and toss until thoroughly combined. Bake until deeply golden, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare your salad dressing: In a bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic, salt, and a generous amount of black pepper. Whisk until combined.
- We’re going to add the onion to mellow its flavor and lightly pickle it—first, cut your sliced onion down the middle to make the pieces more manageable. Then, stir the onions into the dressing. Place the bowl in the refrigerator while you assemble the salad.
- To prepare the salad: Transfer the prepared tomatoes to a large serving platter. Nestle about half of the croutons in between the tomatoes, and distribute the rest on top. Place the cucumber rounds and mozzarella all over the salad.
- Use a fork or your hands to distribute the lightly pickled onions all over. Give the remaining dressing a stir and drizzle it over the salad. Sprinkle the basil and olives and/or capers on top, followed by a light sprinkling of extra black pepper and dried oregano. Ideally, let the salad marinate for 20 minutes (or up to 1 hour) before serving.
*Stale bread note: If your bread is super soft inside and challenging to cut, bake it on the baking sheet dry for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, cube it, toss it in olive oil and bake as instructed.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Simply omit the mozzarella or replace it with cooked chickpeas (as much as one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked).
Change it up: If you hate olives and capers, leave them out. Add a diced bell pepper to the mix if you’d like some additional crispness. See above for how to use chickpeas instead of mozzarella.
Storage suggestions: This salad does not keep particularly well for later because the croutons will continue to absorb dressing over time and turn to mush. If you plan on having leftovers, reserve the croutons for later.
I have a classic panzanella recipe I make every summer but I really love your fresh take on the dish! I’m dairy free so will still skip the mozzarella, but I love the idea of adding cucumber and olives! They may not be traditional but they’re still great Italian flavours.
Thanks for sharing! You can always add more olive if you like since you will be skipping the mozzarella. Enjoy!
Paige Cassandra Flamm
This looks so yummy and fresh! I can’t wait to try it soon!
Looks great. What would you suggest using if we are not eating bread, wheat or grains?
You can skip, but you will be missing and important piece. Or for texture, maybe try chickpeas? Although, I haven’t tried it.
This looks great, will probably fry up the capers before adding, love the crunch and fried capers are addicting
That does sound interesting!
Keep growing!! You are doing great Job.
This evening I made your layered panzanella salad with fresh ingredients from the farmers market. Fast and easy to make. Amazing flavor! It is a fast favorite with my family and me. Love this salad!
This recipe was delicious! Made it this weekend for a family gathering on a large platter framed with fresh arugula which made for a beautiful presentation. We dislike olives so substituted capers, as you suggested, which was very tasty! Will make this one again!
cucumber is good to reduce the body weight and also helps for the skin. Can I make the recipe with coconut oil instead of olive oil.
You could try it, although it will impact the taste.
What a delicious and easy to put together salad! As suggested, I added 1/2 of an orange bell pepper for extra crunch (my hubby isn’t a cucumber fan so I kept that to a minimum) and swapped the mozzarella for feta but otherwise made as directed. Love the tempered red onions that soaked in the dressing – and the fresh basil was a perfect finish!
Thank you for trying it and sharing your thoughts, Sue! I appreciate your review.
Kate, I absolutely love your recipes. I made this for dinner today, and it was so refreshing for summer. I waited until the end to add the other half of the breadcrumbs just so I could have a nice crunch. :)
Thanks for your review and feedback, Courtney!
Omgosh, one of my new favorites, made this today, it is just hits so many places in my mouth and my heart, lovely salad. Thank you darling ♥
You’re welcome, Judy!
This was amazing!! I have been loving all of your recipes!!
Any suggestions on how to meal prep this? I see the notes on storage, but that suggests making it for a few people and then storing the rest. What if I was prepping it all to store and eat over the week?
Hi! This recipes doesn’t make the best leftovers. If you plan on having leftovers, reserve the croutons for later. Or, you could store separately and then assemble as you would like it.
Absolutely delicious! Can’t wait to make it with garden grown tomatoes, although it’s hard to imagine it being better. If I was gong to add something, not that it needs it, I would consider some sumac sprinkled on top. Totally out of the Italian realm, but somehow I think it would work. Thanks for another great recipe!
This is now my 23yr old daughter’s favorite dish! She is always asking for it when she comes for a meal. I am making it again for Father’s Day on Sunday. Thank you for this now family favorite salad!
I’m so happy you love it! Thank you for sharing, Laura.
Super tasty! A perfect salad for a summer day
It was so good nice job !
Such a delicious summer salad! The dressing is tart but pairs perfectly with the salad. This will be added to our regular rotation.
This was delish!
Another five star rating from me and my family! This was amazing. I swapped red onion for finely diced shallot and liked how mellow it was. This was the perfect summer side!
Made it tonight. Yummy. The cucumber slices were the key. They were the chips in a Mediterranean nacho dish <3
Made this for supper tonight! At the very end, just before serving, I added a small head of Romaine, chopped (with a plastic lettuce knife-those things work like a charm!) after allowing everything to marinate. Got rave reviews from two big strapping country boys! They have loved every single one of your recipes thus far, which is quite a compliment, M’Dear! Lol!
Thanks again for another great recipe! I have your cookbook in my amazon shopping cart-Will order it soon!
So fresh and delicious! I had it as an appetizer for a family gathering, and I shared with the recipe with several others at their request, and now they have been making it too. It is a keeper!
I have made this at least 3 times and I’m making it again right now. I love it to death. I love the cucumber “chips” and the croutons give me the starch I would miss. Nom nom nom.
I prepared the panzanella salad. It turned out wonderful.
I’m happy to hear that! Thank you for your review.
If I could give this ten stars I would!! I’ve been looking for a recipe for panzanella that is as good as one I had in Sonoma several years ago, and this is the one for me. I love how flexible it is, I used some leftover asiago cheese bread for the croutons, grape tomatoes and white onions as I was out of red, and didn’t have cucumbers or olives. It was absolutely delicious, though, and our family of three ate all of it! Thank you!!!!
Thank you, Elaine! I’m delighted this one was such a hit. Thank you for your review.
My husband made this yesterday to take on a picnic. We put most of the ingredients together before we left the house then put the marinade on once we got there. It turned out perfect. Everyone complimented the dish. Thank you Kate!
I love the extra toppings that make this version more complex. I also add a can of cannellini beans to make it heartier. The homemade croutons take it over the top!
Thank you for sharing, Megan! I appreciate your review.
Amazing! This will be a summer staple in my house. The vinaigrette with the red onion was delish. The longer it sat the tastier it got. I added chickpeas and yellow pepper and made a few tweaks. This is so good!
This is a great summer staple, Amy! Thank you for your review.
HUGE hit at our 4th of July celebration! Cucumbers, basil and variety of fresh tomatoes all came from my garden. Dish looks as great as it tastes! This one is a keeper! Thank you!
A great one for fun gatherings! Thank you for your review.
Love this Salad! Perfect way to use my garden tomatoes and cucumbers. Really delicious. I’ve made it several times already and the whole family loves it!
Wonderful to hear, Laurie. Thank you for your review!
We made your panzanella salad with the freshest organic veggies from our local farm stand – and local bread. Yum, yum – so good!
Sounds delicious, Kristi! Thank you for sharing.
Made this salad recently and will make it all summer. Love it with cherry tomatoes!!!
I’m glad you love it, Diane!
This salad is so good! I added chickpeas in addition to the mozzarella because we ate this for dinner so I wanted it to be a little more substantial. I was afraid there wasn’t enough dressing but it goes a long way and is very tasty. Another winner from Kate (and Cookie)!
I like that idea! Thank you for sharing, Kimberly.
Made this to take somewhere yesterday to go with a risotto and roast chicken they were serving. It was a hit for the group of 6 people, and I will definitely be making it again! The only thing I didn’t follow was I used all cherry tomatoes as I didn’t have another kind.
Great to hear, Laureen! I appreciate your review.
Loved this panzanella recipe! Super easy and brought it to a BBQ to kick off the warm weather and it was a hit. I did a drizzle of olive oil on top as well! Thank you so much!
You’re welcome, Zoe!