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The Ultimate Summer Salad

What if we told you we had a salad idea that would help you savor and enjoy fresh in-season ingredients all summer long?


Would you believe it?!


Plus, you can customize it with whatever is in-season, including all kinds of colors, flavors and textures!  This makes it not just the ultimate summer's a fantastic year-round salad!

It's a Panzanella salad!

If you are already a Panzanella salad fan, we hope this will give you ideas to take your creations to the next level.  If you are saying "Panza-what?" we want to help you discover this spectacular and oh-so versatile salad!

First, what is a Panzanella Salad?

Very popular in the summer, a panzanella salad is a Tuscan-style chopped salad and often referred to as a tomato salad.

History of the Panzanella salad shows that it was a dish that was often only made at home.  It was made with day-old bread soaked in water, to make it easier to break apart, and then it was mixed with the freshest veggies from the garden.  Panzanella salads most often include tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and sometimes fresh basil.  "Panzanella" is said to come from two words, "pane", or bread, and "zanella", or soup bowl.  Others say that "panzana" means "pappa" or food.  With the green (typically basil), white of the bread, and the red of the tomato, this salad beautifully expresses the colors of Italy.

Today, Panzanella salads are very often topped with a simple dressing of oil and vinegar, which is much more flavorful than adding water to soak your bread!

Tips for Success:

These salads are loaded with a variety of nutrients that can include vegetables, fruits (yes, we said fruit!), greens and whole grains.  You can even add meat and transform it into a great entree salad.  The key is to use the freshest, most flavorful ingredients possible!  Here are a few tips for Panzanella salad success:

  • The right bread.  You want to use a quality whole grain bread.  We are not talking about every day whole wheat sandwich bread here.  A rustic, crusty whole grain bread will work best, and farmers' markets can be a great place to find this type of quality bread.  If you struggle to get your hands on some, you can always consider making a basic version of the Homemade Rustic Bread.


  • Toast the bread in the oven or on the grill.  If your bread is hard and stale, you can use it as is.  If it is still soft, you can throw it in the oven or on the grill to get it browned and slightly crunchy.  This Maillard reaction that occurs in the oven or on the grill can also produce some great flavors and aromas.  It really is a simple as cutting or tearing the bread into bite-size pieces, tossing them with a little olive oil if desired, placing them on a baking sheet in a single layer, and baking them at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until as browned as you like.  To grill, simply place a few slices on the grill, flipping them once to get them browned and toasted on both sides, and then cut or break apart into bite size pieces.


  • Choose your favorite greens.  These salads can be made with your choice of greens, so go ahead and pick your favorite...spinach, romaine, arugula, Swiss chard or even kale!


  • Wide variety of ingredients!  The reason we love this salad is because you can mix it up with so many ingredients...whatever is fresh and in-season.  In Spring, try sugar snap peas, radishes and pickled veggies.  In the early summer, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers are ideal.  As the summer season progresses, try different versions with peaches, fresh corn cut from the cob and even watermelon!


  • Soak it in!  When you have assembled your salad, add the dressing and then let it sit for 5-10 minutes before digging in, to help the bread soak up some of the dressing.


For added inspiration, check out this video to show you how to make a Panzanella salad and quick pickled veggies too.  For more about quick pickling, see our coaching tip, and trust us, this requires no fancy equipment or technique...and they are ideal for salads, tacos, burgers, pizza, sandwiches and more!  We encourage you to try quick pickling, we think you will love it!

Summer Tomato Panzanella

Peach Panzanella

Grilled Steak Panzanella

Panzanella Kale Salad with Corn and Figs


We hope this will inspire you to keep your salads interesting as we journey through the summer and to help take advantage of the wide variety of amazing in-season produce!



Please send us your ideas for more Panzanella salad versions we can add to Eat REAL America!







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4 Responses to The Ultimate Summer Salad

  1. One of our favorite things to do is to ‘hunt and peck’ our way through a great farmers market, choosing the freshest veggies and greens, breads, cheeses, olives, oil and vinegar, cured meats, and going home to make a spectacular salad! We are blown away by all the colors, sights, smells and sounds there. Cannot wait to try these panzanella ideas! Thanks for the inspiration!

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