Panzanella, the summer Tuscan bread salad, is a blank canvas that exalts the freshest seasonal flavors: juicy, ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, spicy red onion, and fragrant basil leaves. It’s dressed with vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, then stashed in the fridge so that all the flavors can mingle into a refreshing salad.
Why not dress it with fall flavors?
You can make a panzanella salad fit for the season with pan-fried butternut squash and carrots, a handful of meaty olives, and caramelized red onions, to add a sweet and sour touch. When it comes to dressing the salad, opt for a lighter apple cider vinegar that won’t steal the show from freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil, which will release all its peppery, grassy aromas once it touches the hot vegetables.
Serve as a seasonal appetizer, bringing the olio nuovo bottle to the table so that everyone can drizzle more as they please, or make a meal out of it, serving it with roasted sausages, pork chops, or a ball of creamy burrata.
- 4 thick slices day-old country bread
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
- A few sprigs of thyme
- 6 tablespoons black olives, pitted
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil (olio nuovo), or to taste
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or to taste
Soak the bread slices in a bowl of cold water.
Pour 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil into a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the finely sliced onions, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until softened. Pour in the red wine vinegar and reduce, about 3 minutes. The onions will be now nicely caramelized.
Pour the remaining 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil into a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the squash, carrots, and thyme, and season with a generous pinch of salt. Brown the vegetables for about 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re soft inside and golden brown on all sides.
In the meantime, remove the bread from the water, squeeze to remove any excess water, and use your hands to crumble it into a large bowl.
Add the vegetables to the crumbled bread, along with the olives. Season with a drizzle of olio nuovo, apple cider vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Mix with your hands to distribute the dressing evenly. Set aside for 10 minutes to let all the flavors mingle, then serve.