Panzanella: how to make bread salad like a true Florentine

Classic panzanella bread salad

You can find several panzanella bread salad recipes on the Internet. Try Ilaria Spinelli’s classic versions if you want to taste true Florentine flavors.

Ilaria Spinelli is the blogger behind Progressive is Food, a Tuscan-oriented journal where she writes about restaurants, chefs, ingredients, and recipes (her panzanella is a must!). On her blog, Ilaria also shares amusing food memories and details about the coolest food events in Florence, making it a window to what’s going on around town. What I like about her style is that it’s not picture-perfect, but homey and lived-in.

When she’s not blogging, Ilaria works an office job in Empoli (a small town about 30 kilometers from Florence), writes for local magazines, participates in several food festivals, and enjoys cooking with her two beautiful daughters. Don’t ask me how she does it all!

Tradition is the leitmotif in Ilaria’s kitchen – “food is a powerful means to dialogue with people and to transmit traditions,” she told me, when we met for coffee. Today she shares with Foods of Florence her recipe for panzanella, a summer classic throughout Tuscany. The dish is essentially a salad of stale bread and raw vegetables (usually tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions), dressed with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Like any Florentine, Ilaria grew up eating panzanella (her nonna Dina’s panzanella!), which made her particularly fond of the dish, still one of her favorites.

Ilaria recommends to use Tuscan unsalted bread and good quality extra virgin olive oil. The salad should be prepared one day ahead to allow the bread to absorb the vegetables’ juices and turn into a delicious, comforting masterpiece of simplicity.

Photo credit: Ilaria Spinelli


Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad)

By Ilaria Spinelli

  • Stale Tuscan unsalted bread
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Cucumber
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt

Tear the bread into pieces, then soak it in water and red wine vinegar.

Wash the vegetables well, then cut the tomatoes into wedges, and slice the cucumber and the onion finely.

When the bread is soft (but not soggy), squeeze it, and crumble it with your hands.

Place the crumbled bread in a bowl, then add the vegetables and some basil leaves.

Season with salt and dress with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

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