Panzanella Salad

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

Panzanella is a classic day-old bread and vegetable salad from Tuscan peasant cuisine. Despite its humble origins as a way to use stale bread, panzanella has become quite a popular dish and is now even served in fancy restaurants, sometimes with a modern twist.

Panzanella is originally from Tuscany, but it is also prepared in many other Italian regions such as Le Marche, Puglia, Liguria, Umbria, and Lazio. Keep reading to learn how to make a delicious and authentic panzanella salad from scratch with just a few, simple ingredients.

The origins of the Tuscan dish Panzanella

One story of how panzanella was created says that poor farm peasants, who needed to use any and all food available, combined dry old bread with some vegetables they could grow themselves. They moisented the stale bread with water, and enriched it with the seasonal and inexpensive veggies such as tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers to make a quick and filling meal during the summer months.  

Another story says that panzanella was invented by local Tuscan fishermen who prepared this basic and simple dish on board their boats by dipping their stale bread in seawater and adding whatever vegetables they could find, namely onions, which have a long shelf life.


The wonderful thing about panzanella is that you don’t need any special equipment to make it!

  • a few bowls
  • a cutting board
  • a knife


The best panzanella is usually the simplest. If you grow your own vegetables, you will love the taste of your fresh cucumbers and tomatoes in this simple bread salad. If you don’t grow your own, consider swinging by a farmer’s market so you can pick the juiciest tomatoes and coolest cucumbers. Here is a list of the produce you’ll need:

  • Tomatoes – juicy and red and hopefully fresh.
  • Cucumbers – consider buying smaller ones that have less seeds or removing the seeds if they are large.
  • Onions – preferably a mild red onion that is somewhat sweet.
  • Basil – consider buying a plant to use periodically in your cooking, even if you don’t have a garden. Fresh basil has the best flavor and is very easy to grow, even inside on a windowsill.

How do you make Panzanella step-by-step?

Panzanella is one of the easiest Italian recipes to make and takes just a few minutes. You start with stale bread, which gets soaked in water and a tablespoon of vinegar. You then squeeze the water out of the bread and crumble it between your hands into a large bowl (photo 1-2).

Then you finely chop tomatoes, cucumber, onions and basil and mix them all together with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and let it “rest” before serving (photo 3-4-5-6).

Panzanella variations

There are several ways to make your panzanella salad unique. One of the main variations is to leave the bread and vegetables as large chunks when preparing it, so instead of having finely chopped vegetables the salad comes out with large cubes of bread and chunks of tomato, cucumber and onion.

There are also modern panzanella recipes that add fruit, like peaches, or corn, but be sure not to tell the Tuscans as they are quite traditionalist when it comes to their panzanella recipes.

Other easy salad recipes


Can panzanella salad be made ahead of time?

Expert Tip: You can certainly make panzanella salad ahead of time, like an hour or so before serving, and it will taste even better because the flavors will have time to meld together. If you want to make it the day before, but you don’t want the bread to get too mushy, simply add all the ingredients except the bread, which you can then add 30 minutes or so before serving.

How long can you keep panzanella?

Panzanella can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 24 hours, but the bread may become a little too mushy for some people’s taste. If you want to freshen up the dish, you can add some additional bread 30 minutes before serving the next day.

Why does Tuscan bread become stale so quickly?

The typical farm bread in Tuscany has no salt, which means it gets stale quickly. The main reason for this, historically, was that farm bread was usually made only once per week and had to last all week without molding. Adding salt to the bread would have attracted moisture, therefore causing the bread to get moldy in just a few days.

Instead, the saltless Tuscan bread doesn’t attract moisture and instead gets stale and hard. But nothing goes to waste in peasant Tuscan cooking, so the hard bread was and is used in many ways, including soaking it in milk with a sprinkle of sugar for breakfast, soaking it in water to make panzanella or adding it to soups like ribollita or pappa al pomodoro.

What does the name panzanella mean?

The origin of the name panzanella is fascinating. Some say that the name panzanella comes from the union of two words, pane, which means bread, and zanella, which means soup bowl or tureen. Others claim it comes from the word panzana, which originally meant gruel or mush.

Tuscan Panzanella Salad

A quick and easy fresh salad directly from Tuscany. A delightful mix of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and toasted bread, dressed in a zesty vinaigrette.
5 from 2 votes
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Course: Salad
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 201kcal



  • Take the sliced, stale bread, preferably Tuscan bread or a crusty bread without salt, and submerge it in a bowl with water. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water, and wait for the bread to soften.
  • Remove the bread slices one at a time and squeeze them to remove the water and then crumble each piece into a clean, large bowl. Repeat until all the bread has been squeezed and is crumbled in the bowl.
  • Cut the ripe tomatoes into small pieces, add them to the bowl and mix well. The bread should turn a light red color.
  • Finely chop the cucumber, onion and basil and add it to the bread.
  • Season the dish with some salt, a dash of ground black pepper and a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil and mix together well until the consistency is uniform.
  • Cover and leave the salad in a cool place or the fridge for a few hours so that the flavors can meld together. Now it’s ready to enjoy!
Serving: 100g | Calories: 201kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 0.5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Sodium: 319mg | Potassium: 244mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 263IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 99mg | Iron: 3mg
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