This Summer Panzanella Salad has all the flavors of a BLT for a super tasty, light weeknight meal. It's great for summer picnics & BBQs too!!
This is one of my very first food blog posts. It was originally published back in August of 2013. I wanted to update it as I was brand new to blogging when I first wrote it and I didn't even include any photos in the first version! This beautiful Summer Panzanella salad, with it's BLT flavors, definitely deserves a few photos!
What is a Panzanella Salad?
Panzanella is a Tuscan salad that was created as a way to use up crusty bread that has gotten stale, as well as celebrate the bounty of summer tomatoes. The juice from the tomatoes and the dressing brings new life to the slightly stale bread.
Salads are always one of my favorite things to eat in the summer and I love to come up with new variations on things I've made before. This particular salad happened quite by accident due to a head of lettuce that had gone bad!
I had intended to make an Italian-inspired chopped salad for our 4th of July BBQ, however, when I went to pull the ingredients out we realized the lettuce had started to turn. So without the lettuce, I had to improvise. I threw all the other ingredients together thinking maybe we'd just have a salad without lettuce and then realized I really needed some substance to replace the lettuce, so I cut up a nice loaf of sourdough that I happened to have on hand, toasted it up in the oven and added the toasted bread cubes to the mix. The result turned into the extremely tasty summer Panzanella salad, which I still make all the time!!
Tips for Panzanella Salad
The process of making a Panzanella salad is really easy and only requires a few simple steps.
Toast the bread: Start with this step and you can prep everything else while the bread is cooking and cooling.
Make the dressing: I often use a small mason jar to make salad dressing. You simply add the ingredients and shake to blend. If you are keeping any of the dressing for later simple seal with the lid and pop it in the refrigerator.
Chop the veggies: Chop up all of your veggies and add them to a large mixing bowl as you go.
Let the flavors meld: Once you've added the bread cubes and the dressing you'll want to let the salad sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. If you are serving this later in the day wait to add the bread until about 30 minutes before serving. You want it to soften a bit and soak up the dressing and the tomato juice but not get too soggy.
A note about the ingredients
- Bread: Sourdough bread is my favorite for this recipe but any crusty bread will work. It's best if it's a day or so old as it will toast better.
- Tomatoes: The directions call for grape tomatoes however since tomatoes are so abundant in the summer any fresh tomato work. If using larger tomatoes just chop them into bite-sized pieces.
- Bacon: I love the coffee-rubbed bacon from Whole Foods. Maple bacon is another good choice. I recommend using thick-cut bacon so the pieces don't get lost among the other ingredients.
- Blue Cheese: If you like you can use a pre-crumbled blue cheese however, for the best taste I'd recommend getting a high-quality version from the cheese counter and crumbling it yourself.
If you love Panzanella salad check out this fall version I made with butternut squash - delicious! If you come up with a great variation I'd love to hear about it; drop me a note in the comment to let me know!
Summer Panzanella Salad
For the salad:
- 6 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1" cubes (this is about ⅔ of a loaf)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 12 - 14 baby carrots, chopped
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1" cubes
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut into half
- ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
- 3-4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 4 green onions, chopped
For the vinaigrette:
- ¾ teaspoon Coleman's or other dried mustard
- 1 ½ teaspoon minced shallot
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon dried minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- Toast the bread. Place bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir to coat. Toast for 15 - 20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Make the vinaigrette. In a small bowl combine the mustard, shallot, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic, pepper, salt and sugar. Mix well. Add the vinegars and stir to combine. Whisk in the olive oil until blended.
- Make the salad. While the cubes are baking combine beans, carrots, mozzarella, tomatoes and blue cheese in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Toss the salad. TOnce the bread cubes are cool add them to the bowl with the veggies and mix well. Slowly pour the dressing over the salad and toss until everything is well coated. Place the salad in the refrigerator and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Add the toppings. Just before serving top with bacon, avocado and green onion.
This recipe post was originally published in August 2013. It was updated in May 2017 with some new images and again in July 2020 with some new information. No changes have been made to the original recipe.