Panzanella is a salad comprised of tomato and stale bread that is originally from Tuscany but is enjoyed all over central Italy. It has a light dressing of olive oil and vinegar and is popular in the summer. I had the pleasure of eating it in Sardinia this summer, where it was prepared by the Italian’s 82-year-old father. While born in Piedmont, the Italian’s father’s family is originally from Tuscany (although, rather confusingly, their family name means “from Milan”), and this dish is an apparent favorite. The Italian’s father, who lived through the Second World War in Turin often eating nothing but mushrooms and weeds collected from the forest, told me that the dish was traditionally for peasants who did not want to waste old, stale bread, so they turned it into a salad.
1 Loaf stale, dried country-style bread
3 Tomatoes (ripe)
1 Sliced Onion
12 Basil leaves
5 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 T Red Wine Vinegar
Sugar (1.5t to taste)
Cut bread into chunks, about 1 inch x 1 inch.
Place tomatoes and onions in bowl with bread. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Add to bowl with the bread. Add basil. Mix and let sit in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld. Bread should be moist but not soggy.
Optional: Add cucumbers, capers, red peppers, hard boiled egg, lemon juice, and/or garlic for added taste.