Bright, Fresh, Simple Summer Panzanella

Oh, summer. You are an expert wooer.

Top-down shot of a large white ceramic serving dish of panzanella with a wooden serving spoon, on a blue cloth background.

Just when I want to hate you, while I’m pushing up another hill on my bicycle, sweat dripping down my neck while I slap a bug off my face, you hit me with a gorgeous sunset over a field of wildflowers, the kind that makes me pull my massive camera out of my backpack, right there on the trail, while I literally gasp out loud.

A wooden bowl of panzanella in the foreground with a white ceramic serving dish of the salad in the background, on a blue cloth.

You know just how to do it. Just after a crazy rainstorm, there’s a farmers market packed with produce. On a lazy Saturday afternoon at home, you have me roasting grape tomatoes from a local farm.

There are those who hate you, Summer, those who are immune to all your charms, who — very fairly — cite heat and humidity and insects and all that comes with those things, from big hair to incessant scratching of ankles.

Top-down shot of a white serving dish and a light brown wood bowl of panzanella with romaine lettuce, roasted grape tomatoes, chunks of sourdough bread, shredded mozzarella, and minced basil, with a fork sticking out of the bowl, on a blue and white polka dotted cloth napkin on top of a blue table cloth.

And I listen to them, I do. But look, between you and me, none of this matters.

Because for me, it all comes down to this: There’s nothing better than your bounty of fruit and vegetables.

Not the creamy celeriac soup or the  roasted roots of winter, or the thin asparagus spears of spring. I like those things, but man, I love your bounty in the warmer months, the way the food stalls overflow with colors and fresh, enticing smells on weekend mornings…

A light brown wooden bowl of panzanella with fresh and roasted vegetables, chunks of bread, and shredded cheese, with a silver stainless steel fork, on a blue cloth background.

I love, for example, that your tomatoes taste so much better than January’s. I love the way they look, sliced, with juice dripping onto a plate.

And now I love them roasted, maybe more than any other way, when they are shriveled and darkened, crispy around the edges and bursting with juice when I take a bite.

Roasted tomatoes are good by themselves, great in omelets, and fantastic in a panzanella salads whipped up in the late afternoon while the grill is warming and friends are enjoying cocktails and each other’s company on the patio.

A wooden bowl of romaine, mozzarella, bread, and roasted tomato salad on a blue cloth in the background, with a forkful of panzanella in the foreground.

I made them this weekend, just before stepping outside, and Summer, let me tell you, this was excellent timing.

This panzanella is uncomplicated, just a compilation of what I had on hand. It starts with fresh grape tomatoes, sliced and roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

The tomatoes are combined with some greens (I used romaine), thick hunks of mozzarella, chopped basil, and diced pieces of thick toasted sourdough bread. Toss with olive oil and balsamic and allow it to sit for a minute, so the toasted bread can really soak in the tomato and dressing, and WOW.

One big bite of this panzanella is delicious, irresistible, fresh, and fragrant. In other words, it’s you, Summer, all you, and that is a very good thing indeed.

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A light brown wooden bowl of panzanella with fresh and roasted vegetables, chunks of bread, and shredded cheese, with a silver stainless steel fork, on a blue cloth background.

Simple Summer Panzanella


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 80 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: Roast
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This is one of those recipes with a lot of popular variations, but the key is to improvise, adding more of what you like and less of what you don’t. Combined with the dressing and fresh vegetables, the bread is chewy and satisfying.


Ingredients

For the Salad:

  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 big slices crusty sourdough bread
  • 4 cups roughly chopped romaine lettuce
  • 8 oz shredded or cubed mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

For the Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat if you wish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until roasted and wrinkled.
  3. In the last 10 to 20 minutes of roasting the tomatoes, add both slices of bread to the oven on a small baking sheet. Bake until golden and toasted. Chop bread into cubes and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the romaine, mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, bread cubes, and basil.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes or so, allowing the dressing to soak into the bread.
  6. Serve immediately.

Keywords: panzanella, tomato, salad, summer

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients

Wash all of the produce well.

Halve the grape tomatoes. Chop the basil leaves.

A small baking tray topped with slices of sourdough baguette, beside a small bowl of shredded green lettuce, a small glass bowl of shredded mozzarella, and a small glass bowl of red halved grape tomatoes.

Pat the romaine dry with paper towels or dry in a salad spinner, and roughly chop.

Measure the remaining ingredients. Set to the side in the order they are listed in the ingredient list.

Step 2 – Roast Tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Halved grape tomatoes on a nonstick silicone baking mat, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Place tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side up. Be sure to arrange them in an even layer without any overlap.

Roasted grape tomatoes on a white nonstick silicone baking mat.

Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Bake for up to 1 hour until the tomatoes are roasted well. They should be wrinkled and slightly bursting. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Step 3 – Toast Bread

Place the bread on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, for the last 10 to 20 minutes while the tomatoes finish roasting.

I you don’t have a bakery loaf, a sourdough baguette will also work in a pinch.

Chunks of sourdough bread in a small white bowl, on a brown wood background.

Remove from the oven and chop into bite-sized pieces. A serrated bread knife is perfect for this task.

Step 4 – Make Dressing

A small glass bowl of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper, on a wood background.

Add dressing ingredients to a small bowl.

A small glass bowl of balsamic vinegar and olive oil salad dressing, on a striped wood background.

Whisk well, until the balsamic vinegar is fully incorporated.

Step 5 – Assemble Salad

Place the chopped romaine, mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, bread cubes, and basil in a large bowl.

Top-down shot of a large stainless steel mixing bowl containing separate piles of halved red roasted grape tomatoes, shredded mozzarella cheese, romaine lettuce, and chunks of sourdough bread.

Toss briefly to combine.

Vertical top-down image of two wooden utensils being used to toss a homemade panzanella salad.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Vertical closeup of panzanella in a large mixing bowl with two wooden spoons.

Toss to coat, and let rest for 10 minutes. This will allow the dressing and tomato juices to seep into the bread, creating the flavor and texture that this signature salad is known for.

Serve as a main dish for lunch, or an salad for the first course at dinner. It’s also perfect to bring on a picnic.

Improvisation Is Key to the Art of Panzanella

When it comes to a summer panzanella, the recipe doesn’t always have to be an exact guide. Everyone’s taste in salad varies greatly.

For example, you might like more tomato flavor in your panzanella. You can add more, or skip roasting them before tossing with the other ingredients.

Other fresh vegetables like cucumber, bell pepper, and fennel also make tasty additions with some added crunch.

A white serving bowl of homemade panzanella.

Alternatively, you might want more crunchy bread, or you may even like more freshly cracked pepper, garlic,  or anchovy paste in the made-from-scratch oil and vinegar dressing.

What I always recommend with salads like this one is to try the recipe as it’s written the first time, then make adjustments as you like with each successive attempt.

Taste each element as you go along, and have fun with making the salad your own.

Once you try the recipe, tell us your favorite way to assemble it below. Did you follow it to the letter, or make your own adjustments? Leave it a five-star rating if you loved it!


Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing a recipe for a simple summer panzanella recipe.

Photos by Meghan Bassett, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 12th, 2010. Last updated: June 7, 2018 at 20:39 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Bassett and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.

24 thoughts on “Bright, Fresh, Simple Summer Panzanella

  1. So very pretty in its simplicity. Plum and cherry tomatoes are so sweet fresh, and especially when you bake them. I snack them all the time. I make panzanella quite often but will try to perfect it still. This recipe is the next one to test. And I can’t help but to crumble some goat cheese on top… Love your photography, as always.

  2. Roasting buddies! 🙂 I did the same thing over the weekend, although I used the results for a roasted tomato sauce. (Sorta wintry, I know, but summer heirlooms rock the socks off winter supermarket Romas.)

    And homemade croutons are the best thing ever, hands down. So now I know what I’m making with my CSA share this week!

  3. I’m in your camp. LOVE summer, but didn’t exactly love it when I lived in Chicago. Man! That was HOT! I left a banana in my car for 15 minutes and returned to find it totally black and mushy. SCARY. I do love this salad, however, and I am a HUGE fan of roasting tomatoes! Yum!

  4. Here’s an honest-to-goodness cooking question for you: How does one “drizzle” olive oil? Do you put it into a container with a small opening (like, um, an actual olive oil dispenser)? Do you just pour very gently from the bottle (I am not good at this)? Do you have some other sort of magic?

    I always end up dumping way too much on whatever I’m roasting. Or I oil the pan and roll things around in it.

  5. Jane, “Sauna bath” is a mighty good description around here, too. I will say I’m thankful for air-conditioning, love of summer notwithstanding! : )

    Tiina, Thank you for that sweet comment (and the Tweet this morning!). Now that I’ve realized how easy panzanella is, I think I’ll be making more versions, too. At least as long as summer lasts!

    Jacqui, Thank you! And right? Summer, SUMMER, I love it so.

    Maddie, Ha, roasting buddies!! And a roasted tomato sauce sounds killer. Just the thing to pull out when it IS winter again and we’re all bummed about the blah tomatoes. Smart thinking!

    Anne, Panzanella buddy! I loved seeing your version earlier this week. Great minds think alike!

    RedMenace, Chicago really gets hit from every end, you know? Crazy cold winters, hot hot summers. This place is something. The vision of your banana blackening in the car is scary indeed, and so not at all hard to believe! Enjoy your current climate, my friend!

    Kim, Ha! Well, I can tell you what I do: either (a) just try to carefully drizzle it by barely tipping the bottle and sending it out in a slow stream or (b) putting my fingers over the lid and letting them block the fast flow. That’s all I’ve got! Oiling the pan sounds like a smart option, too. I like that idea.

  6. The wide range of weather is one of the reasons I love living in Chicago. I especially love those days like one we had in June when it was warm & sunny at lunch, severe pitch black storms later in the afternoon, and then cooler & sunny that evening. Panzanella is actually on my to do cooking list. 🙂

  7. Tim, Great Scott! Well thank you!

    Vicki, I like that positive outlook, and I’m glad you shared it. Diversity is a good quality Chicago has, you’re right, you’re right. Please help me remember that this winter, OK?

  8. That’s funny, I’ve always just used raw tomatoes in panzanella. Roasted would amp it up a lot, I would think.
    I like to throw olives in mine too!

  9. The best part about roasted tomatoes is the hot juice that squirts out when you bite into them. I love me some tomatoes, but hot and toasty, is the best.
    But I think I’ve already established I love all veggies roasted. Mmmm…..

  10. totally agree with ya here. there are certainly days that the heat has driven me bonkers, but then i remember how lame last summer was, and how cold the winters are. it’s all about perspective. and you’re right – you just can’t beat the produce! those tomatoes look excellent!

  11. Dana, Amp it up is exactly the right way to say it. Such a big difference, I can’t even tell you.

    Angela, Well, you should! It’s just so summer. I love it.

    Niki, YES! Hot and toasty with juices squirting when you bite in – mmmmm!

    Heather, “It’s all about perspective” – as so many things are!

  12. Shanna, I love reading your blog & I’m surprised that I’ve never left a comment here. I can’t think of a vegetable that I don’t love roasted. Someone just brought me fresh-from-the-garden grape tomatoes tonight & I think I decided what I’ll do with them =)
    -Katy Hornbeck

  13. Katy! So nice to hear from you! We’ve come a long way from pecan tarts at Country Kitchen, right? (Although, let’s be honest, that doesn’t sound half bad). Hope this weekend finds you roasting those fresh tomatoes and loving them!

    JessieV, Well, thank you for that lovely compliment!

  14. Sometimes I wonder, usually when I’m scratching both ankles AND elbows, but you know, I’m coming around, and I’d give Summer and her produce the thumbs up in the end, also.

    Lovely shots.

  15. Chrissy, Ha! Glad to hear it!

    Molly, I know, I know. The bugs are really too much! Thankfully summer makes up for it with all the other things.

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