To squeeze, or not to squeeze: that is the question. Panzanella, the famously frugal Tuscan bread salad, dates as far back as the 1500s, and I'd be surprised if any two Tuscans have made it exactly the same way since then. Everyone agrees on the basics: panzanella must contain bread, preferably slightly stale; and it must contain tomatoes, preferably perfectly ripe; and it must be bound together with some type of vinaigrette dressing. Beyond the basics, each salad maker creates at will, using other harvest ingredients (cucumber, onion, olives) and whatever else is at hand. Some cooks like to soak the bread briefly in water to rejuvenate it, and then squeeze the water out. I prefer to let the bread soak up the vinaigrette, and retain just a little bit of its crouton-like crunch. In this two-tomato bread salad, I combine ripe red tomatoes with my own slow-roasted tomatoes, which have been packed with their cooking olive oil, redolent with garlic and thyme. The oil and tomato juices, along with roasted garlic, add depth to the vinaigrette, which flavors the bread. Thank you, Tuscany.
Two-tomato bread salad with roasted garlic dressing
From the pantry, you'll need: slow-roasted tomatoes, fresh herbs, fresh black pepper, coarse sea salt. (If you don't have roasted garlic salad dressing on hand, see the end of the recipe for additional pantry ingredients to make a fresh dressing.)
Serves 2-3 as a lunch or supper main dish; can be multiplied.
3 cups of 1-inch cubes of crusty whole wheat bread (I use day-old ciabatta)
12 slow-roasted tomato halves, roughly chopped
1 large or 2 medium very ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
5 large basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
6 small mozzarella balls, cut in half
1/4 cup roasted garlic salad dressing or fresh garlic vinaigrette (see below)
Fresh black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt, or more, to taste
If your bread is day-old and slightly stale, add it directly to a mixing bowl. If you are using fresh bread, toast the cubes in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, then add to the bowl.
Combine the two tomatoes, basil, parsley and mozzarella with the bread cubes. Add the salad dressing*, and toss to make sure all of the bread is coated. Let the salad sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes; stir occasionally to allow the bread to absorb the dressing. Season to taste with fresh black pepper and coarse sea salt right before serving.
*If you don't have roasted garlic salad dressing on hand, make fresh dressing: Combine 1 clove garlic (finely minced), 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake, shake, shake, until the dressing thickens.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Winter squash panzanella
Bread salad with roasted tomato vinaigrette
Fattoush (pita bread, tomato and cucumber salad)
Puff pastry tartlets with zucchini and slow-roasted tomato filling
Tomato and goat cheese bruschetta
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil panini, from Panini Happy
Slow roasted tomato hummus, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Roasted tomato and bread soup, from La Tavola Marche
Roasted tomato bread pudding, from Stephencooks
Slow roasted tomatoes, cippolini and white beans on ricotta toasts, from Lady Gouda
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.