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Recipe – Panzanella Salad

Bread and tomato salad
Panzanella

This wonderful Tuscan salad will make you think twice before throwing away any stale bread. It’s very summery and makes a lovely accompaniment to a main course or just a lunchtime appetiser. Although it has been around for centuries, the ingredients still vary from place to place. In Florence, cucumbers are added to the salad, perhaps to honour the great Florentine painter Il Bronzino, who in the sixteenth century wrote in his diary that there is no greater pleasure in life than eating a salad of wet bread, rocket, sliced onions, cucumber and basil. Of course, he did not mention the tomato which only began to make its mark on Italian cuisine in the eighteenth century!

panzanella

500g of stale ciabatta bread, crusts removed
30 ml red wine vinegar
4 large tomatoes, not too ripe, cut into wedges
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
a small handful of young basil leaves (or tear larger ones)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt

Break the bread into bite size pieces and place in a serving bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients, with room to toss the salad comfortably. Sprinkle with about half the vinegar and mix well to coat all the bread pieces. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and pour in the rest of the vinegar and a good drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and mix gently but thoroughly. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to rest – it will even work well if refrigerated overnight and brought to room temperature before serving. Perfect party planning dish.