Tuscan Panzanella-Bread Salad

June 17th 2011 by Katie

Fresh and simple ingredients: a summer Tuscan recipe

Credits: Flickr

Summer has arrived in Florence, well kind of, so it is time to make a great dish to help stay cool. Panzanella is a bread salad that was perfected by the farmers in the Tuscan countryside. Panzanella born on the fields of Tuscany grown with passion.  Living a hard life, the farmers produced this amazing and fresh salad from the ground.  When they were working during the summer, they would rise at around 3:00 am and then by 4:00 am would be out in the fields harvesting the crops. As 8:00 am came around, the sun starting to warm the earth, and they retreated inside for breakfast in for breakfast.

Bringing the necessary ingredients from the garden

basil leaves
red onions

The history of panzanella was first mentioned by Boccaccio in the Decameron called “pan lavato” (washed bread). Panzanella was a dish that was made only in homes. It is made with day old bread soaked in water and mixed with veggies from the garden. The word panzanella is said to come from the two words “pane” (or bread) and “zanella” (soup bowl) and others said it to mean “panzana” meaning “pappa” (food). Panzanella wasn’t always enjoyed by the farmers but by all social classes. It was served to Vittorio Emanuele, the King of Italy, by the stateman Bettino Ricasoli, in 1865.

Credits: Flickr

The green of the basil, the white of the bread and the red tomato, expresses the glorious colors of Italy.

Here is how you make Panzanella:

Soak the day old bread in water so it is easy to break apart. Then mix all the ingredients together, tossing with olive oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. How easy is that?

Day old Tuscan bread
2 Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
1 Red Onion
15 leaves of Basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar
Ground Pepper

First you soak the bread in a bowl of cold water until the bread has absorbed the water. Then chop the tomatoes, red onions, and place in a bowl. Peal the cucumber and chop. Add to bowl with tomatoes and red onions. When the bread has soaked up the water, remove from bread and squeeze out the water into the sink and crumble into pieces and place in a new bowl. Then add the bread to the tomatoes, red onions, and cucumber. Season with salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Add more olive oil to make the bread more manageable to toss until completely mixed.

Buon appetito!

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Other Photo Credits: Katie Greenaway

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Tuscan Panzanella-Bread Salad