Skip to Content


March 8, 2022

Rustic and soaked with flavor, this tomato panzanella recipe is just the kind of recipe we love to learn by heart. It’s so simple, and it’s so much fun to play around with.


Panzanella Salad with parmesan, pickles onions, tomatoes, basil and white balsamic vinaigrette

A Classic, Hearty Tomato Panzanella Recipe for All of Your Summertime Feasting Needs

Only the Italians—the brilliant, wonderful, carb-positive Italians—could come up with something as delightful as bread salad. Panzanella is ideal for when the temperatures rise and you want a dinner that involves minimal cooking. As a substantial salad—again, it’s a bread salad! No lettuce to be found here—it’s definitely filling enough to be called dinner, so although you do have to turn the oven on for a few minutes, it’s still a relatively low-effort meal. It’s also one of our favorite things to do with fresh, juicy, peak-season tomatoes! Bread, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and plenty of Parmesan cheese—what could be better?

ingredients for homage panzanella salad, crusty bread, olive oil, balsamic, red onions, garlic, basil, tomatoes and parmesan

What Is Panzanella Salad?

Panzanella is a classic Italian dish that’s closely associated with Tuscany, but can be found throughout Italy in various iterations. Like many great foods of the world, it is a recipe that evolved as a way to use up what people had around—in this case, as a (delicious) way to make the most of day-old (or many days-old) loaves of rustic bread. Tossing it with tomatoes and a garlicky, olive oil-rich vinaigrette dressing gives the bread a second life! As the dried out bread soaks up the dressing and tomato juices and whatever else you might have added to your panzanella, it takes on a new quality—tender, deeply flavorful and pleasantly toothsome.

dijon, olive oil, balsamic, onions, sugar and salt in a bowl for vinaigrette
dijon, olive oil, balsamic, onions, sugar and salt in a bowl for vinaigrette with pickled onions

What Bread Do You Use for Panzanella?

Marcella Hazan—we don’t talk about Italian food without consulting her first—simply calls for “good bread” in her panzanella recipe. But honestly, that’s not very helpful, is it? Traditional Tuscan panzanella would be made with local, country loaves—probably of various shapes and sizes depending on the town or village—and most of us don’t have access to exactly that type of bread. What that means, to us, is that you’ve got a little leeway in terms of which bread you’d like to use for making your panzanella! Traditionally, also, the bread would be stale (as we’ve mentioned). At least a day old, maybe more. But, our panzanella recipe mimics that staleness by toasting the bread, so even if your bread isn’t “mature”, don’t sweat it. So, while you can use most any bread that you love, here are three types of bread that we love to use to make panzanella:

  • Ciabatta. This rustic Italian bread is airy and crusty, with a lovely chewy texture. It’s our very favorite bread for panzanella.

  • French bread. You know what we mean, right? We’re not talking about a baguette here. We mean the squishy, soft, slightly crusty bread that’s usually sold in grocery stores as “French bread”.

  • You could even use a leftover sourdough loaf.

torn pieces of bread on a baking sheet
torn pieces of bread baked until golden on a baking sheet

How To Make Panzanella

This easy, classic panzanella salad recipe comes together pretty quickly and relies on simple ingredients to make a dreamy light (vegetarian!) dinner, or hearty side.

  1. Soften and “de-flame” the shallots (or onions). Pouring boiling water over sliced onions tones down their sharpness and makes them much more mild. It’s a trick we love to employ for this panzanella recipe, so that we can enjoy their onion-y goodness without overpowering the other ingredients.

  2. Make the panzanella dressing—add the ‘de-flamed’ onions to it—and set it aside.

  3. Toast the bread! Toss the cut or torn bread with some olive oil, salt and garlic powder, and toast it on a baking sheet until it is lovely and golden brown. Let the bread cool to room temperature.

  4. Make the panzanella! Now the fun part—toss everything together! The dressing, the bread, the goodies—basil, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan and panzanella dressing.

  5. Dig in! Panzanella is delicious at room temperature, or you can even serve it with a slight chill.

tomatoes, pickled onions, basil, parmesan cheese, and toasted bread pieces in a bowl for panzanella salad
tomatoes, pickled onions, basil, parmesan cheese, and toasted bread pieces tossed together in a bowl for panzanella salad

What to Serve With Panzanella

On a hot summer evening, all you really need to serve with panzanella is a nice, chilled glass of good white wine. But, if you’d like to serve this as part of a larger meal, it can make a really lovely side dish, or complement to other veggie-heavy, warm-weather dishes. Try serving it with:

homemade panzanella salad in a bowl

Tools You’ll Need

More Classic Italian Recipes to Try

homemade panzanella salad recipe
Panzanella Salad with parmesan, pickles onions, tomatoes, basil and white balsamic vinaigrette

This Garlicky Tomato Bread Salad is Our Kind of Dinner Salad

Rustic and soaked with flavor, this panzanella recipe is just the kind of recipe we love to learn by heart. It’s so simple, and it’s so much fun to play around with. Make it, and make your own! Maybe you’d like a little more garlic, or to add some anchovies or oil-packed tuna to the mix—uh, YUM! When you try our panzanella recipe, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

💌 Let's Stay Together

There are so many great ways to receive all of our latest recipes, meal tips, and inspiration.


  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  30 min
  • Cook Time:  20 min
  • Calories: 234


  • 1/2 lb (8 oz) ciabatta or French bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 oz basil (1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 pint ( 10 oz) cherry tomatoes, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 oz shaved parmesan cheese


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat four cups of water to a boil and preheat the oven at 425°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the dressing until fully combined.
  3. Place the shallots/onions into a fine mesh sieve set over the sink. Slowly pour the boiling water over them, quickly softening them as you go.
  4. Add the softened onions to the bowl with the dressing, toss to combine
  5. Place the bread on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle with with 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder toss to combine.
  6. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown all over.
  7. In a large serving bowl, toss the toasted bread with the basil, tomatoes and parmesan. Drizzle the dressing over the bread/tomato mixture, tossing as you go, until fully combined.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories234
  • Protein6 g
  • Carbohydrates21 g
  • Total Fat14 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol7 mg
  • sodium619 mg
  • Total Sugars3 g


Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • White

    I have a lemon balsamic vinegar. Will it work?

    Should taste fine, hope you enjoy!

  • Martha

    Just curious about the white balsamic vinegar as I’ve never used it before! Is it recommended for flavor or color or both? Could this be made with regular balsamic too?

    You could make this panzanella with regular balsamic! You're right—we call for white balsamic mostly for the color. It's also a bit milder in flavor, but swapping in regular balsamic wouldn't hurt at all.

  • David

    Delicious recipe, I make it all the time! The white balsamic dressing is incredible. I slightly modify the approach by pickling the red onion in white vinegar while the bread is in the oven.

    Thank you! Great idea with the red onion pickling!