Panzanella – Tomato Bread Salad

The perfect summer salad with fresh ingredients from the garden, this Panzanella – Tomato Bread Salad will soon be a favorite of yours too!

Panzanella (Tomato and Bread) Salad

Fate must have played a strong hand in this month’s Recipe Swap; a group event where we are given an assignment that consists of an old recipe from a vintage cookbook that we use as inspiration for something new; in my case this Panzanella – Tomato Bread Salad.

We’re currently working out of a book called The Ford Treasury and this recipe is from the Hotel Dilworth which the recipe itself indicates is located in a noted vacation area in Michigan.

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I recall very fondly two trips that I took to the Petoskey, MI area so I did a search and lo and behold I found that the almost 100 year old historic building is in that area and is currently undergoing a renovation and expected to re-open this year! Small world indeed.

The recipe we are given is simply an inspiration and our challenge is to put our own spin on this treasure. It’s always great fun to not only devise our own dish but to see the creativity that comes from our members each and every month.

After my homage to excess last month, something lighter was certainly on the agenda this time around.

When I saw this tomato pudding with tomatoes, bread and butter I could almost taste Panzanella salad, an Italian salad using the simplest of foods that come together in an equally simple but fantastic salad.

I was so sure of my choice that I put little thought into it and simply scheduled the time and date for the post and inserted the recipe for my use when I was ready to pull it together.

But a small and incessant niggling started in my head that I could eventually not ignore. This was not tomato season and tomatoes are the star of this dish. Fresh, warm from the summer sun tomatoes.

Tomatoes so full of juice and flavor that taking the time to cut them seems to just prolong an ecstasy that any true tomato lover knows.

The beauty of the tomato stance even; bending at the waist, arms and torso outstretched so that the ground becomes your plate and you casually ignore that feeling of tomato juice running down your chin, even your forearms.

This is tomato nirvana and it is those tomatoes that this salad is made for. So I decided to punt and make something else. Or so I thought.

You know how once you get something in your head sometimes there is simply no letting go? I tried, I really did but I could not let this Tomato Bread Salad go. So my challenge became to find the best tomatoes I possibly could, and to rely on some fabulous croutons and a great dressing to stand on their own.

And if I’m honest to plead with you to make this salad but not until this summer. I can not wait to do it again…right after I clean the dribble off of my chin from that ‘first’ tomato!

Still, as if on cue my semi weekly box of organic fruits and veggies from Door to Door Organics appeared magically on my doorstep. Red, ripe organic tomatoes and a head of fresh lettuce and I was rescued and ready to stay on task.

Panzanella is a Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes popular in the summer. It includes stale bread that is soaked in a dressing and tomatoes, often accompanied with onions and basil which is dressed with olive oil and/or vinegar.

Florentine traditionalists disapprove of using other ingredients but I’m not in Florence so I like to serve mine with some lettuce, garlic, mustard and Parmesan cheese.
Panzanella (Tomato and Bread) Salad
There is nothing difficult about this Tomato Bread Salad but some things are important to me to insure it’s the best it can be. I always drain the tomatoes and then use some of the tomato water in the dressing.

Then I dress the tomatoes first and give the flavors some time to meld together before adding the bread cubes. I’ll let that mixture sit for just a couple of minutes; I want the bread dressed but not soggy…and so do you, I promise.

Piling that mixture on top of fresh greens and then finishing with some freshly grated Parmesan is the making for an almost perfect salad. Later this summer. Promise me you will do it then; I know I will!

PIN IT! ‘Tomato Bread Salad – Panzanella’

Panzanella - Bread and Tomato Salad in White Bowl on Yellow Placemat
Panzanella - Bread and Tomato Salad in White Bowl

Panzanella – Tomato Bread Salad

Creative Culinary
The best use for stale bread and fresh tomatoes ever, this Panzanella salad is absolutely delicious!
4.72 from 50 or more votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Salads, Dressings, Marinades and Sauces
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 -6 Servings
Calories 242 kcal


For the Croutons:

  • ΒΌ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 6 cups cubed day-old bread 1/2-inch cubes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

For the Salad:

  • 2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes diced
  • ΒΌ cup minced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp tomato water
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard preferably whole grain (I LOVE Maiille mustard)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups mixed greens torn
  • Parmesan cheese


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until it foams.
  • Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with the butter.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the bread to a baking sheet; sprinkle with the cheese and toss again while warm to melt the cheese.
  • Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 8 or 9 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container.
  • Drain the tomatoes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients; save the tomato water to use in the dressing.
  • In a bowl, combine the onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Add tomatoes and basil and stir gently. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Add the croutons and toss well.
  • Mound lettuce in a large bowl or on a plate. Top with a generous amount of the bread/tomato mixture.
  • Shave Parmesan over the salad and serve immediately.


Nutrition Facts
Panzanella – Tomato Bread Salad
Serving Size
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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  1. This looks sooooo good. I stumbled on to your recipe from the Burwell General Store site. Good work!!!!! πŸ™‚ I especially like the way you share your sources. You are the real deal….very legitimate. I appreciate your work and ethic!!!!! πŸ™‚ And of course, your taste.

  2. I`ve tried this recipe and i`m really impressed, it has a very good taste. My both child tried it and they like it a lot. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  3. Completely understand about getting something in my head and not being able to get it out. I often get that with coconut macaroons πŸ™‚ Thank you for the suggestion of using the tomato juice in the dressing…I have never done that, but will be adopting the idea!

    1. It’s a pain sometimes but in this case it worked…and I think that juice does add a nice acidity…certainly the right flavor!

  4. Great minds think alike, or something like that:) I am glad you made the salad and I WILL make it as soon as I spy the first ripe tomato at the farmers’ market:)
    In Serbia we eat a lot of summer tomato-cucumber-onion salads, dressed only with salt, pepper, and a bit of oil, and dunking some crusty bread in the juices has always been my favorite:)
    So I agree with you, the dressing and the croutons could be the best part of the dish:)

    1. True…I almost did renege but glad I went through with it. In two months it will be much better though! I do the same but really…nothing quite like buttery, garlic and Parmesan croutons.

  5. Saved by eh CSA! Yay! Lucky you to find a tomatoes in your box! I had a hard time getting tomatoes out of my head for this swap too. You came up with the perfect early-season tomato dish, I think. Spring is the season for bright, hopeful salads like this one.

    1. Let’s say they were the best of what I could expect to get but still…will be even more excited when they deliver the local ones this summer that I look forward to having that dribble moment with. πŸ™‚

  6. Can you imagine I never made panzanella in my life? And I think I never ate it either… I will have to fix that! It looks delicious!

  7. Oh my GOD that recipe looks amazing. I tried to get really ripe, sweet tomatoes as well to showcase them still even though they were my base / condiment, but talk about putting them center stage. This looks perfect for this time of year. Bookmarkin it! Happy swapping!

    1. I was VERY lucky to get a couple of decent tomatoes yet I know that given a couple of months we will see AMAZING tomatoes…but hey, it gives folks the idea now and they can plan for it, right? I’ll be over to visit in a bit; did not get to anyone’s site yesterday. Bad Barb.

  8. It’s always tomato season here in the sunshine state;)LOVE panzanella and yours is divine. I was waiting to see what you dug up on the Hotel Dilworth. It’s so interesting that building is in renovations and is re-opening:)

    1. I thought it worth checking because I knew the area we went to was consider a vacation mecca. Was still surprised to read the word ‘Petoskey’ and that took me back a bit. Way back to going with a girlfriend when I was 18 and again on my honeymoon. Gorgeous part of the country and I can just picture this hotel.

      Hey…send me some tomatoes then. I spend most of the year just craving them and only about 2 months finding any worth eating.

  9. You seriously had me at the homemade croutons! At the cafe where I worked, they made homemade bread, for the homemade croutons…..HEAVEN! The place smelled so amazing when they were making them:-) You salad looks lovely! Hugs, Terra

    1. That sounds like heaven; I wonder why I don’t make them more often but then answered my own question…cause I munch on the ALL day long!

    1. You always make me smile. I decided to quit fighting it and put my writers hat on for a bit. You made it a worthy effort, thanks!

    1. You have the perfect bread…amazing what a bit of garlic and butter can do to stale bread isn’t it? A dish to diet for!

    1. Considering it did not have the ‘perfect’ tomatoes, I lucked out but really how can you go wrong with the other ingredients right?

  10. I love me some panzanella salad in the summer. I usually have to double up on the croutons because my guys eat them faster than I can make them. Beautiful looking dish Barb.

    1. I doubled the croutons too and they were a snack. About 10 times a day I had to walk by them and grab a small handful. Thanks for your kind words and of course friends take care of friends. You know what I mean. πŸ™‚

  11. Oh my god, I can’t believe this! You’ve just posted my lunch today:) Telepathy works, theres no question:)

    1. Mary, that is absolutely the best time…this salad with the freshest garden tomatoes is simply the best.

  12. nothing better than this salad. It’s one of my favorite things ever. I thought of this first thing when I read the recipe also!

    1. It’s funny that it was originally just a way to get rid of abundance…but I’m with you, nothing better.

  13. Goodness, this looks fantastic! I had similar reservations when I approached our recipe… it’s like anti-tomato season, and I didn’t want to rely on the mealy supermarket variety. But fate certainly intervened for you, and I’m so glad it did! I love any kind of bread in my salad, and I’m incredibly fond of panzanella. What a great interpretation of the original recipe– I can’t wait to try it!

    1. Thanks so much…it was REALLY a challenge wasn’t it but that’s what makes this fun…I’ll be over to visit in a bit; can’t wait to see what you did!

    1. I can pull one together next time you’re gonna be near. Although we should wait til summer tomatoes; these were actually OK but come Julyish…Oh MY!

    1. You know I think it’s that little bit of ‘tomato water’ that actually makes all the difference for me…and maybe that mustard I LOVE. I could eat this every day in the summer.

  14. A fresh, err, stale, panzanella salad is soooo delightful! And with all that parm, yuuuuummy!
    And thanks for the little history lesson, makes me a bit inspired to do some more researching about past posts and the origination of the recipe…

    1. I have found I am enjoying that bit of research Julia, it’s amazing how much that has interested so many readers…the things you think everyone knows – they don’t!

  15. Oh, my gosh, my mouth is watering. And I’m now craving the first tomato of the season. That first warm, ripe, juicy tomato that tastes like heaven. Yum. Panzanella is a real favorite here especially at the height of the season when the tomatoes are ripening faster than we can use them. Love your serving it over lettuce and that little dab of mustard in the dressing sounds just perfect! Bravo, Barb.

    1. Thanks Lana…what would it take for me to get you to send me a crate of those gems. It’s the one thing I long for in this state I love…a tomato of my past, big, juicy and luscious. Here…just not the same. Sob.

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