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Panzanella

by . Featured in KITCHEN
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Introduction

Panzanella, which sounds as though it should be the name of the beautiful heroine in a ballet or a fairy tale, is the word for a damp and tomatoey bread salad from Italy. Not only is it a good way of using bread past its bouncy best, but it is also a jubilant end for a handful of tomatoes so old they're moving beyond ripeness and towards skin-splitting, fuzzy-fleshed maturity.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Panzanella, which sounds as though it should be the name of the beautiful heroine in a ballet or a fairy tale, is the word for a damp and tomatoey bread salad from Italy. Not only is it a good way of using bread past its bouncy best, but it is also a jubilant end for a handful of tomatoes so old they're moving beyond ripeness and towards skin-splitting, fuzzy-fleshed maturity.

For US cup measures, use the toggle at the top of the ingredients list.

Image of Nigella's Panzanella
Photo by Lis Parsons

Ingredients

Serves: about 4, as a side

Metric Cups
  • 250 grams staled Italian-style bread or sourdough or other dense chewy bread (cut into 2cm / 1in cubes or torn and crumbled into pieces)
  • 1 small red onion (cut into thin half-moons or finely chopped)
  • 60 millilitres red wine vinegar
  • 500 grams good ripe tomatoes
  • ½ clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or 1 teaspoon pouring salt
  • 1 pinch of caster sugar
  • 125 millilitres extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil
  • 9 ounces staled Italian-style bread or sourdough or other dense chewy bread (cut into 2cm / 1in cubes or torn and crumbled into pieces)
  • 1 small red onion (cut into thin half-moons or finely chopped)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 pound 2 ounces good ripe tomatoes
  • ½ clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon pouring salt
  • 1 pinch of superfine sugar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil

Method

  1. Sit the cubed bread on a wire cooling rack to keep dry.
  2. Put the half-mooned or chopped onion into a large bowl, big enough to take all the remaining ingredients later, pour the red wine vinegar over it and leave to steep for at least 10 minutes.
  3. While the onion's steeping, put the tomatoes in a large bowl and pour boiling water over from a kettle to cover them, leaving for 5 minutes.
  4. Grate or mince some garlic over the vinegar and onions. I tend to use 1 clove but stop when I'm about halfway through.
  5. Drain the tomatoes, then peel, remove the seeds and chop up the flesh, scraping it into the vinegar and onion bowl as you go. (There are times I don't bother with blanching and peeling the tomatoes, but I always get rid of the seeds.)
  6. Add the salt and a pinch of sugar, then tear or crumb the bread into the bowl. Pour the oil over it and add half the basil leaves. Using your hands (wearing a pair of CSI disposable vinyl gloves if your skin is sensitive) toss and mix everything to combine.
  7. Ideally, you should leave this overnight to steep and mellow. If so, leave the remaining basil leaves and stalks on top, then cover with clingfilm; if serving straightaway, add the remaining basil leaves and check for seasoning.
  1. Sit the cubed bread on a wire cooling rack to keep dry.
  2. Put the half-mooned or chopped onion into a large bowl, big enough to take all the remaining ingredients later, pour the red wine vinegar over it and leave to steep for at least 10 minutes.
  3. While the onion's steeping, put the tomatoes in a large bowl and pour boiling water over from a kettle to cover them, leaving for 5 minutes.
  4. Grate or mince some garlic over the vinegar and onions. I tend to use 1 clove but stop when I'm about halfway through.
  5. Drain the tomatoes, then peel, remove the seeds and chop up the flesh, scraping it into the vinegar and onion bowl as you go. (There are times I don't bother with blanching and peeling the tomatoes, but I always get rid of the seeds.)
  6. Add the salt and a pinch of sugar, then tear or crumb the bread into the bowl. Pour the oil over it and add half the basil leaves. Using your hands (wearing a pair of CSI disposable vinyl gloves if your skin is sensitive) toss and mix everything to combine.
  7. Ideally, you should leave this overnight to steep and mellow. If so, leave the remaining basil leaves and stalks on top, then cover with clingfilm; if serving straightaway, add the remaining basil leaves and check for seasoning.

Additional Information

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
Make the salad up to 1 day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving, to allow to come to room temperature. Toss in the reserved basil leaves just before serving.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE:
Make the salad up to 1 day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving, to allow to come to room temperature. Toss in the reserved basil leaves just before serving.

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What 2 Others have said

  • I make this all the time in Summer when the tomatoes are at their peak. I add cucumbers to my panzanella and sometimes thinly sliced sweet bell peppers. Delicious.

    Posted by llrosie on 14th January 2021
  • My favourite salad recipe. This is literally the only way I will eat raw onion.

    Posted by richardbunn on 18th August 2020
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