Monday, August 12, 2013

Italian Bread Salad (Panzanella Caprese)

This week's CSA share is actually a great combination for salsa. Last summer I made a green salsa using tomatillos and green cherry tomatoes. It's a very simple recipe, especially if a food processor is used. 

Instead of making another salsa for this post, I decided to branch out a bit. Because we have a lot of tomatoes, my friend Ari suggested that I make Italian bread salad. I was familiar with the salad, but had never eaten it. I love the classic combination of tomatoes, mozzarella and bread, so I decided to give it a try. Plus, this recipe uses that day old, half-used baguette that is often tricky to finish before it goes stale.

This colorful salad is very flavorful and satisfying. After toasting the bread to make something like rustic croutons, the salad sits for a period of time, allowing the bread to soak in the dressing. I was worried that doing so would cause a soggy texture. However, the crisp bread pieces were somehow soft but still crisp.

Missoula fortunately has a great French bakery, Le Petit Outre. The pastries are beyond tasty and the espresso is killer. The loaf choices are also awesome, though I wish they made more simple whole wheat varieties. Nonetheless, their baguette is solid. When tomatoes are in season, I like to make Pan Tumaca for breakfast, using a fresh baguette.

Italian Bread Salad (Panzanella Caprese)
adapted from Whats Cooking in America

makes about 6 servings

1/2 a day old baguette (about 12 inches), or about 5 cups torn into small pieces
1/4 c olive oil plus 2 Tbsp
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt, plus more
black pepper
4 medium-large tomatoes, or about 1 1/2 lbs, coarsely chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 large handful basil leaves, or about 1/2 cup thinly sliced
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, or about 1 1/2 cups torn into small pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the torn pieces of bread onto a cookie sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the bread. Toss to coat and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crisp and golden, stirring once. Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Mix the garlic and salt together to make a paste. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Whisk until emulsified. Set aside. 

Toss the cooled bread, tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella, and basil into a large salad bowl. Add dressing and gently toss to coat. Let sit to meld flavors for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Serve at room temperature.


  1. How can you be familiar with a salad without eating it!

    Looks delicious regardless.

  2. Ha, I suppose I should have clarified. I am familiar with the dish through cookbooks and food blogs. I just haven't made it before. Sorry for the confusion.

  3. The other great thing about these salads is almost anything can be added to them...cucumbers, parboiled green beans, summer squash...