Panzanella (Classic Italian Tomato Salad)

Aiiiii, summer tomatoes. When they're the very ripest, the very juiciest, the deepest color, it's time for the classic Italian tomato and bread salad called Panzanella that moves a summer table to silence. What a salad, what a meal ...

Panzanella (Classic Italian Tomato Salad) ♥, a must-make summer salad. Worthy of an occasion, we make it a meal!

Real Food, Fresh & Seasonal. Mere Minutes to the Table. Hearty & Filling. A Summer Classic. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Potluck & Party Friendly. Scales from Small Plates to Large Platters. Low Fat. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Rave Reviews.

Easy Summer Recipes ♥, a seasonal collection of easy-to-remember and memorable recipes especially for summer. Less cookin'. More livin'. It's the summer's motto!
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that I'm adding it to a special collection of easy summer recipes
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Please Indulge Me with A Little History, Here?

Way back in 2005, this column was Kitchen Parade's debut column in my hometown newspaper, the Webster-Kirkwood Times and its sister publication the South County Times, both small-town weeklies with a combined circulation of about 100,000. For a fifth-generation newspaper person, it was an amazing honor to be back in print! Read along here as I introduced myself back then by writing about the life and identities in the "towns" (actually near suburbs of St. Louis) where those readers lived.

You're welcome to scroll quickly past these few paragraphs or if you like, here's another chance to Skip Straight to the Recipe.

A small town may be better measured by the stamp of its spirit than the size of its population or the span of its geography.

There’s a small-town substance to this place we call home. It’s true for St Louis itself but especially the neighborhoods that readers of this paper know best, the ones of old trees and new cafés, strong schools and smart kids, low fences and good neighbors. (Does one begat the other?)

There’s the noon’n’six hymns from the bell tower at First Pres.

And the prime corner-real estate of budding entrepreneurs who operate summer’s lemonade stands.

And morning walkers who’d be strangers except that we know each others’ dogs by name.

And a hush on holiday mornings, especially when flags ripple in remembrance.

And the haunting horn of the train that rumbles through on Sundays around bedtime.

And a familiar name in an obituary, the neighbor’s cousin, wasn’t he?, the one whose sister moved away but came back to raise her family and whose brother’s grandchildren are in Little League, now, with yours?

This is Kitchen Parade’s debut in the Webster-Kirkwood Times and the South County Times but my mom started the column for a small-town newspaper way back in 1959.

I hope that it fast becomes a turn-to corner of this newspaper for both new and experienced cooks, one that feels like sharing a coffee (and a recipe!) over the kitchen table with an old friend.

First Off, What Is Panzanella Anyway? The Best Tastes of Summer!

Sure, I could tell you all about Panzanella being the traditional Italian tomato and grilled/toasted bread salad.

But that description hardly does justice to the wonder that is a big bowl of juicy tomatoes tossed with garlicky chunks of torn bread, crisp and toasty on the outside, soft and warm on the inside.

First of all, the Italians aren't the only find cooks to pair the best tomatoes with good bread. In the Middle East, there's Fattoush with the lovely addition of sumac and crispy bites of toasted pita or a Jerusalem Salad which adds romaine lettuce and uses a lemony tahini dressing. See?

But mostly, it's because what Panzanella really is is one of summer's very best summer salads, one to look forward to making once summer tomatoes begin to really ripen, not just a little bit ripe, but juicy to the point of dripping down your arms, ripe.

Panzanella excitement is right up there with the almost-Pavlovian anticipation of all the other summer tomato classics.

My husband makes his mother's Old-Fashioned Cucumber & Tomato Salad every few days all summer long, we can't get enough. Me, I wait-wait-wait for that first simple tomato sandwich. (You know, just good bread with a slather of mayo, a thick slice of ripe tomato, sprinkled with no more than salt and pepper ...) Or the quintessential summer BLT made with crispy Baked Bacon.

Or ... I could go on and on! I won't though but me tell you why, since 2010, I vowed to Never Take a Good Tomato for Granted, including my very favorite recipes with tomatoes.

Tired of the same-old sliced tomatoes? Find new inspiration in this collection of seasonal Tomato Recipes ♥, savory to sweet, salad to soup, sides to sandwiches, breakfast to dinner. Many Weight Watchers, vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo, whole30 recipes.

What's In Panzanella?

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. Usually I'm a big fan of substitutes, in this case, I recommend sticking with the recipe, it just works.

  • Good Tomatoes Panzanella is a celebration of tomatoes so seriously, reserve this recipe for the ripest and juiciest of summer's best tomatoes.
  • Good Bread for Homemade Croutons Choose a bread that has some flavor, some texture, some heft. It can be store-bought, a good Italian loaf, a French baguette, a seeded country loaf. Rub the bread with fresh garlic and toast it until slightly crisp. Oh! And when the toasty-garlicky bread soaks up those tomato juices ... so good.
  • A Little Onion, A Little Cucumber Onion offsets the sweet tomatoes, cucumber adds bulk and texture contrast. If possible, use a garden cucumber rather than a less-juicy hothouse English cucumber or mini cucumbers. That said, this salad is more about the tomatoes and bread than the cucumber, so use what you have.
  • Fresh Garlic Garlic cloves are used twice, first to rub the bread before toasting, then minced for the salad itself.
  • Fresh Basil Cut the basil leaves into thin ribbons, the smaller the pieces, the better it distributes throughout the salad.
  • Capers Capers contribute tiny bites of saltiness, a welcome contrast to the tomatoes and cucumber.
  • The "Vinaigrette" Dress Panzanella like an Italian salad, no whisking, no precision, just tossing the salad with splashes of red wine vinegar and olive oil plus touches of salt and pepper.
Prepped vegetables for Panzanella (Classic Italian Tomato Salad) ♥, a must-make summer salad. Worthy of an occasion, we make it a meal!

How to Make Panzanella

The detailed recipe is written in traditional recipe form below but here are the highlights in three easy steps. You can do this!

  • MAKE HOMEMADE CROUTONS by rubbing bread slices with fresh garlic, then "toasting" on the grill or under the broiler or sure, even in a toaster. Or use a skillet for toasting, just tear the bread into rough bite-size pieces or cut into cubes, then "toast" in a skillet with a little olive oil.

  • PREP THE TOMATOES & OTHER SALAD INGREDIENTS Combine juicy tomatoes with a little onion, some cucumber, some fresh basil, some minced garlic and some capers. Taste a small bite, then season with salt and pepper. Be generous!

  • FINISH YOUR MASTERPIECE OF A SALAD Just combine the Homemade Croutons with the tomato mixture and splash with a little red wine vinegar and olive oi.

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • What about making a meal out of Panzanella? Yes! The first panzanella of the summer is always-always "dinner" – here that means the recipe below serves two instead of four.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Don't "dry" the tomatoes. Some salad recipes suggest slicing and salting tomatoes, then letting the tomatoes rest for a bit on paper towels. This does prevent a different kind of salad from becoming too watery. But for Panzanella, the tomato juices are the point! They marry up with splashes of vinegar and olive oil, marinating the tomatoes, soaking into the Homemade Croutons. Why let the paper towels drink up all the deliciousness?!

What Makes Panzanella Special

  • Make Panzanella for a salad or for supper, either one.
  • A wonderful way to highlight summer's best tomatoes.
  • Make it in just a few minutes, chop-chop, no recipe really required once you get started.
  • It truly sings "summer" even if made just once a year.
  • It tastes "special" but uses ingredients easily found and kept on hand during the heigh of summer.
  • Ready to get started? Here's your recipe!

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this lovely summer tomato salad recipe hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Panzanella (Classic Italian Tomato Salad) ♥, the classic recipe for Italian tomato and bread salad. Worthy of an occasion.


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time-to-table: 15 minutes
Serves 4
  • 1 clove garlic, halved lengthwise
  • 4 slices good, hearty bread
  • 4 perfectly ripe tomatoes, each about the size of a fist, cored and diced or cut into wedges
  • 1/2 a red onion, diced fine or cut in thin slivers
  • 1/2 a medium cucumber, peeled or striped if desired, diced fine
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 tablespoons small capers, drained
  • To taste, salt
  • To taste, freshly ground pepper
  • Tomato Salad
  • Homemade Croutons
  • About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • About 2 tablespoons olive oil

MAKE THE CROUTONS Rub the cut sides of the garlic clove onto both sides of the bread slices. Then "toast" the slices, the grill works well and adds great grill flavors, so does the broiler, just toast both sides until lightly toasted, then tear into rough pieces. My favorite method is to tear the bread into rough pieces (or cut into cubes) and then "toast" in a hot skillet with a little olive oil or bacon grease, tossing often until the outer edges are golden and crispy. What about using an actual toaster? Sure!

MAKE THE TOMATO SALAD Combine the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, basil, garlic and capers in a large serving bowl. Taste a small bite of tomato, then season to taste with salt and pepper. (Stop here if making in advance.)

ASSEMBLE THE SALAD Just before serving, stir in the Homemade Croutons, letting them soak up the tomato juices for a minute. Splash with the vinegar and olive oil. Taste another small bite, then adjust the seasoning.

SERVE & SAVOR Panzanells is best served right away. It's so good, Panzanella may be a meal in itself!

LEFTOVERS But here's a way to use up any leftovers – or reason to make extra! Just remove the bread, then toss what remains with hot pasta and some good grated parmesan. Even my dad, who wasn't all that keen on pasta, used to say, "This is a really refreshing way to eat pasta." I love it too!

SHOULD YOU REMOVE TOMATO SKINS If the tomatoes' skins are unappealing, as can happen with the best-tasting garden tomatoes, it takes only a few extra minutes to "blanch" tomatoes. Just drop them into boiling water for a minute, then rinse under cold water until the skins peel off easily with a knife. For "all meat" tomatoes, cut them in half, then remove and discard the seeds with a small spoon. Chop the remaining tomato meat.
ALANNA's TIPS Panzanella is simple country fare but when the tomatoes are ripe, it’s food for kings. It’s only as good as its ingredients so decent bread, vinegar, oil and salt are also in order. For bread, stale bread works great. Just make sure it's a sturdy, hearty bread. We're big fans of the sour dough loaves from Whole Foods. Another idea? Substitute slices of leftover cornbread for the hearty bread. A tender-skinned English cucumber works, so does a just-picked garden cucumber, though you may want want to peel it (or at least "stripe" the peel) and scoop out the center seeds.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Serving: 223 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 86mg Sodium; 32g Carb; 5g Fiber; 6g Sugar; 6g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 7 & Freestyle 6 & myWW green 6 & blue 6 & purple 6 & future WW points CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = scant half serving (3g protein).

More Special Tomato Salads

~ tomato recipes ~
Tomato Recipes ♥, simple to sumptuous, super-organized to find exactly the right recipe, fast.
Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella for a Crowd ♥, a quick and easy way to serve two of summer's best treats, good garden tomatoes and good fresh mozzarella.

Fattoush (Middle Eastern Salad with Romaine, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Fried Pita Chips and Lemon-Sumac Dressing), another creative summer salad ♥

Chipotle Chickpea Salad ♥, beans mixed with summer-fresh vegetables and a smidgin of heat. WW Friendly. Rave Reviews. Gluten Free.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ recipes using bread ~
~ tomato recipes ~
~ cucumber recipes ~
~ caper recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2006, 2007, 2008, 2015 (repub) & 2022 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Anonymous7/22/2007

    Sounds delicious! Congratulations on your debut in print. That is really impressive!


  2. Anonymous7/22/2007

    I love panzanella but have never tried toasting the bread- I bet that gives a great textural component. Will try that next time!


  3. Anonymous7/22/2007

    I have always wanted to try making panzanella! I have to try this soon, while tomatoes are still in season. Thanks for sharing :)


  4. Anonymous7/22/2007

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. And congratulations on the newspaper thing. Too cool.


  5. Anonymous8/05/2008

    I made a tasty version tonight that was months in the making! I froze dried ends of cracked wheat bread in the spring thinking about making this come summer when my tomatoes were abundant.
    I sauteed the bread in garlic flavored olive oil since I was in a garlic-slicing mood. Then I chopped up a quart of tomatoes, a cuke, and half an onion. I mixed up a red wine, olive oil, and garlic vinaigrette and poured it over everything.
    To garnish the salad I found a bit of cooked bacon and sprinkled it over top.
    We nibbled on it the whole time it was sitting on the table!

    Yum! Thanks for a terrific recipe!


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna