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  • Leigh

An Easier Panzanella: Italian Bread Salad

Not everything has to be authentic to be good. In fact, sometimes shortcuts turn out the best recipes. I think a faster, easier Panzanella is a case in point. Yes, most of the vegetables are there, but, instead of using toasted Italian or French bread or stale bread soaked in water and squeezed dry, I simply open a giant bag of croutons from Costco and dump those in my salad. Yes, it's cheating, and yes, the result is quite good as well as easy. The croutons soak up the vinaigrette as well as adding their own flavor to the salad. Originally, Panzanella consisted primarily of onions, but the salad has, over time, changed to include mostly tomatoes. My version does include plenty of tomatoes, but it also has an ample amount of other summer vegetables. Cucumbers, onions, and sweet peppers also feature prominently. Because the salad must be eaten immediately if lettuce and basil are included, I leave out them out. When dinner time comes, I put lettuce on plates and top the lettuce with the Panzanella. The lettuce doesn't get soggy, and any leftover Panzanella will keep for several days in the refrigerator. In fact, the flavor of the salad improves as the vegetables marinate in the vinaigrette. Yes, the croutons will be soggy, but they're quite good that way. So enjoy the shortcut and be happy. The food police don't need to know.

Easier Panzanella:  Italian Bread Salad

Easier Panzanella: Italian Bread Salad -- Serves 6 +

1/3 cup of red wine vinegar

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons of grainy Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

2 pints of small tomatoes, preferably of mixed types and colors, halved

1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and chopped

3-4 green onions, washed, trimmed, and chopped

1/2 cup of chopped sweet bell pepper, preferably red, yellow, orange, or a


2 cups of seasoned croutons

1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese

Chopped romaine or torn salad greens

In a large bowl, whisk together well the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, lemon pepper, salt, and garlic and onion powders. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, and bell pepper and mix everything well. Add the croutons and feta cheese and toss everything to combine the vegetables, croutons, and cheese. Let the salad sit for 10-15 minutes and toss it again before serving it atop lettuce or "as is."

Easier Panzanella:  Italian Bread Salad

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