Welcome to Of Hops and Honey! For this first post, I decided to feature panzanella. Never heard of it? Me neither until about two years ago. (Thank you food blogging world for the intro!) Since then, I’ve made many, many panzanellas, including one in Italy at the hands of an Italian chef. This isn’t quite his method, but it is the one I use most often. If you’re not familiar with the concept, essentially a panzanella uses bread as a salad base instead of lettuce, which makes it the best kind of salad in my book.
Panzanella is a favorite in our house which we make on a semi-regular basis. It’s enchantingly simple, using leftover ingredients or those that might be nearing their best-by date in the pantry. It’s also a meal that comes together quite quickly, perfect for busy weeknight evenings.
The one, eensy-teensy, mildly irritating thing I’ve found about other panzanella recipes is the sheer quantity of food you end up with. Use a whole loaf of bread and you easily end up with 6-8 servings – which is great for when you need to feed a crowd! But panzanella is best eaten the same day it’s made, otherwise the olive oil and vinegars will break down the bread, leaving you with a bit of a mushy mess. And anyway, I rarely have a whole loaf of bread just waiting around to get eaten. Real talk- I love fresh bread. It does not last in my house.
But it’s much more reasonable to think that I might have half a loaf lying around. Perhaps it’s a hunk leftover from being paired with a soup or salad earlier in the week. Or the bread:cheese ratio was slightly off when making a cheese plate. Likewise with half an onion or a spare bell pepper. I try to plan meals to use up leftover ingredients as much as possible – but sometimes leftover ingredients are inevitable. That’s when meals such as fritattas (or in this case panzanella) really shine.
The real bonus? Even though there’s a bit of chopping involved, no cooking is required, which means nearly no dishes! Randall is cheering in the background.
Simply cube or tear up your bread, depending on how rustic you like it. I’m a major advocate of going extreme rustic with panzanella, because it was invented in Tuscany, you know, the most idyllic rustic setting ever created.
Then throw it together with your cubed veggies…
Sprinkle on your cheese…
Drizzle on your oil and vinegars, and season to taste. Mix it all together and you’re done!
Substitute other fresh veggies at your leisure. Depending on what needs used up, I’ve also thrown in feta instead of mozzarella or added some salami. If I’m feeling especially naughty, some prosciutto might find its way into the bowl as well. I won’t tell if you won’t. If you’re too impatient for your bread to go a little stale, cube your loaf and then toast in your oven for 5-10 minutes. You don’t need a nice golden color on these, you just want it to be slightly drier to hold up to your dressing.
Even with bread as your “salad” base, there are loads of vegetables here so let’s just call this healthy-ish and leave it at that.
- ½ loaf of crusty bread, cubed (ciabatta, French loaf, etc. all work great)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 bell pepper (orange, red, or yellow), chopped
- ½ cucumber, chopped
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup mozzarella, ½" cubes or balls
- 2 tbs chopped basil (oregano and parsley are also good here)
- extra virgin olive oil, to taste
- balsamic vinegar, to taste
- red wine vinegar, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine bread, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, and mozzarella in a large bowl. Mix to combine.
- Add chopped basil (and any other fresh herbs if using).
- Drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and red wine vinegar, mixing after each addition. You want to balance having enough liquid to soften the bread while still keeping its shape.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.