If you read our post about Preamble Wine, we mentioned panzanella. It’s one of those recipes that is simple and should be so obvious, but we never think to make it unless prompted. We had an impromptu dinner party on Sunday night, and had mostly everything on hand, so we decided to throw together a quick and easy panzanella.
What is panzanella? It’s a Tuscan bread salad, which like so many other classic and simple Italian recipes falls into the category of “cucina povera,” or the type of food you make to be economical and avoid waste. Clayton did a little research into the history, and apparently people would break up their stale bread, wet it, wring it back out, and then jazz it up with onions, and later expanded with tomatoes. It started as a very specific Florentine recipe, but as Italian cooking expert Marcella Hazan notes, it’s now served throughout central Italy, from Florence all the way to Rome. If we’re entertaining, and making something simple, we like to make it fancier with nice plating. We just got these bowls and love these, these, and these.
One concern with the panzanella is you don’t want it to be too soggy, so we mixed the dressing in a separate cup so you can add just enough. We assemble it right before we are ready to serve. We like to serve it in a bowl we brought back from Ravello in Amalfi. Here are some other options we liked such as this, this, and this.
For a fancier option, you could cut cherry tomatoes in half and scrape out the seeds. Then you could trim the curst and cut the bread into smaller pieces, which would look more uniform.
- Heat olive oil in skillet, toss bread in oil and toast until golden. Set aside to cool.
- Cut the tomatoes, keeping them about the same size as the bread (hint: slice horizontally into the thickness you want, lay the slice down flat, and cut into cubes). Set the cubed tomatoes on a sheet pan lined with paper towels and salted them lightly to drain and changed the paper towels a few times.
- To make dressing, combine olive oil, Champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce
- Toss all the vegetables in the bowl with the bread, and toss with enough dressing to moisten the bread. Top with Grana Padano and season with salt and pepper.