Panzanella - Simple way to use up some stale Sourdough bread

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Panzanella salad with sourdough stale bread. Hand picking tomatoes.

Here is a very easy recipe that takes us back to Italy and those hot summer days.

Very easy to make and so delicious to enjoy with friends and family. 

Most of us who bake on a regular basis, as we can't resist the temptation, very often have some leftover bread.

In this article, I will share with you a very easy way to use up whatever you have left in your bread box. 

This salad is extremely easy, quick and if made with the highest quality of ingredients, I guarantee you, you will love it.

Probably you have tried it, or maybe you make it and enjoy it with your family already?! 

We would love to know if you do or if you have a  favourite variation.

Panzanella, it is. 

Panzanella salad with sourdough stale bread.

I kind of had forgotten about this lovely salad.  We had tried it at one of our visits to Italy a few years ago. Our family has a huge love and passion for Italy and Italian food. Even the kids are huge fans. They know that if it's italian, it is delicious and sometimes I even trick them so they try the dish at least…

So here it is how I got reminded about Panzanella and decided to make it:

We have lovely neighbours, who are originally from India, but have lived in Italy for a long time. Now they are in the UK, next to us. We are so lucky finally to have neighbours that we can just pop over and ask for some sugar, egg or just to keep an eye on the kids while we pop out to the shop. 

On the other side of our house we have another set of amazing neighbours, and one of them is Italian...Like the universe knows how attached we are to this country hey…

Anyway, I got carried away...

So the other day I had some leftover bread and made it into crostini and gave some to our friends next door. The guy cooks italian dishes and his wife cooks very traditional Indian dishes. He was very happy and said he will make Panzanella. 

And here he is, the next day, at my doorstep with a bowl of this goodness.

How happy I was?! It was so delicious, so fresh. He added some chillies too, which I think gave a lovely kick to the salad.

Every bite took me back to Tuscany, to the beautiful view we had from the villa we stayed in, to the streets in Florence, Siena, to the tiny villages we visited driving around….

I was inspired and wanted to make it straight away.

Did you know that The name comes from Pane which means Bread, and Zanella - soup bowl.

This dish originates from Tuscany and is prepared mainly in the summer. 

Panzanella goes back at least to the 1500s 

In those days people didn't throw away almost anything.

 Bread was the main hero at every table and they had of course some leftovers ( like us, I suppose). So they soaked the stale bread in water and then drained it, using it to create this salad. 

Originally it only had the bread, onions and olive oil, but with time they started adding other vegetables too.

At that time the tomatoes were not known.

Must mention that the bread at that time was saltless, very common for Tuscany until this very day though.

This salt-free bread was created due to rivalry between Florence and Pisa.
Apparently Pisa blocked the salt supply to Florence. This didn't stop Florentine bakers making bread though and they just didn't add any salt. Simple, hey!?

So the classical recipe is made with this type of bread. 

Here is an interesting fact - In the 14th Century, Giovanni Boccaceio described, in his masterpiece The Decameron, a recipe very similar to the Panzanella we know today.. He called it Pan Lavato ( washed bread).

So all this goes to show how special this salad is and is definitely something we will be making a lot over the summer in our home. 

We have an allotment also and hopefully we will have some delicious tomatoes which we can use to make this delicious and easy dish.

For this one I used some of the crostini I made last week.

I sliced the stale ciabattas, sprinkled some dry Italian herbs, olive oil and sea salt.

I baked them in the oven until they became nice and crisp.

So here is what I did to prepare it:

I soaked the crustini for 3o minutes in cold water. 

I had some spring onion and spring garlic from the garden so I chopped it finely ( one of each).

Half a cucumber- seeds removed and chopped small.

About 150-200g good quality cherry tomatoes- halved. 

The Drained crostini.

Bunch of fresh basil

For the dressing:

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Red wine vinegar



And a pinch of love

It is better if you leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes so the bread can absorb the flavours and the juices of the tomatoes too.

I wouldn't advise keeping it in the fridge as the tomatoes’ taste will change.

I found recipes with olives, peppers, cheese…

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! 



Panzanella salad with sourdough stale bread.

Panzanella Salad

My take on this Italian salad from Tuscany
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


  • 200 g Cherry tomatoes
  • half Cucumber
  • 1 Spring onion
  • 1 Spring garlic
  • Basil
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black peper
  • 1 Ciabatta made into crostini/ or stale bread


  • Soak up the crostini in cold water for 30 minutes.
    Chop all the ingredients finely and preprare the vinegarette.
    Drain the water from the bread and sprinkle over the vegitables.
    Add the finely chopped basil.
    Stir in the dressing and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

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