Panzanella Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

This classic Tuscan-style bread and tomato salad with a garlicky lemon and red wine vinegar dressing is a terrific summer salad when the tomatoes are at their best, but with its Christmas-y colors and “snowy” shredded parmesan, why not make it a festive wintertime salad too!

Panzanella salad with serving spoons on a platter

This panzanella salad recipe combines sweetly acidic tomato, crisp refreshing cucumber, peppery red onion, fresh herbs, creamy fresh mozzarella and salty rich parmesan cheese with a fresh lemon garlic and red wine vinegar dressing that will have your tastebuds zinging! This tasty vegetarian salad is a great option for lunch or a light dinner. It is so bright, flavorful, and easy to prepare and a colorful salad to bring over for sharing on any festive occasion.

Believe it or not, I actually first discovered panzanella many years ago in my trusty old Joy of Cooking cookbook, so I am partial to the basic foundations of that recipe. But over the years I’ve made some tweaks to it to suit my preferences like the addition of fresh mozzarella and omitting the olives. So, please feel free to adjust this recipe to suit your tastes. For example, do you prefer more or less acidity? Try adjusting the vinegar to oil ratio. More saltiness? Add some olives or capers. This is also a great way to level up your cooking skills!

But what if tomatoes are out of season?

I know, I know, I know…most cooks will tell you that fresh ripe summer tomatoes are essential to making great panzanella. And I prefer to eat seasonally when I can, but there are certain foods that I just can’t go without for too long and one of those is fresh tomatoes in my salads and sandwiches. I am sure many of you are nodding your heads because tomatoes are such a staple of everyday American cooking.

In winter, the tomatoes found at the grocery store are often underripe, pale, watery, and lacking in flavor. However, smaller tomatoes like cherry and grape tomatoes tend to be less watery so they retain more of a concentrated tomato-y flavor. So, if you are craving panzanella salad in the wintertime, I highly recommend using cherry tomatoes instead of the other larger tomato varieties. For even more concentrated flavor, you can roast or sauté them lightly in olive oil before adding them to the salad.

Panzanella salad ingredients

What you’ll need to make Panzanella Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

Here are the main ingredients with some pro tips and potential substitutions:

  • Rustic Italian or ciabatta bread – Panzanella (bread and tomato salad) was originally invented as a way to use up stale bread, so the story goes. For this recipe, fresh or day-old bread is lightly toasted in the oven for about 10-15 minutes to create the perfect texture and avoid sogginess. You could really use just about any dense, crusty-style bread for this recipe.
  • Tomatoes – during the summer peak season you can choose plump, well-ripened vine or heirloom tomatoes for this recipe. But when out of season, cherry or grape tomatoes are the better choice.
  • English cucumber – I like English or Persian-style cucumbers with edible peels. Substitute with peeled regular cucumber if you like. Some recipes I’ve seen call for removing the seeds which I don’t do, but you do you.
  • Red onion – if you don’t have red onion, you may use a shallot as a substitute. White or yellow onion would also work in a pinch.
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese – I like to use ciliegini, a type of Italian fresh mozzarella shaped into “cherry sized” balls and packed in water, but you can also use the larger-style balls and just chop them into bite sized cubes.
  • Fresh basil and parsley – this salad really calls for fresh herbs like basil and parsley. I wouldn’t recommend using dried versions as substitutes. You could also try using fresh oregano or mint.
  • Garlic – again, fresh is the key to achieving the best flavor for the dressing.
  • Lemon juice – the addition of fresh lemon juice adds that extra layer of zingy acidity. But if you don’t have any on hand you can just up the amount of vinegar.
  • Red wine vinegar – red wine vinegar is the traditional vinegar in panzanella, but you could use white wine or balsamic instead.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – I recommend a higher quality extra virgin olive oil. I use my everyday olive oil for cooking and save my quality oil for fresh dressings and drizzles.
  • Parmesan cheese – freshly grated is best! I like to spend a dollar or two more on a good parmesan cheese like authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. It has a richer more nuanced flavor, especially when the cheese is a front and center part of the recipe.
  • Himalayan pink salt – this is totally optional, but I like to use Himalayan pink salt as a finishing salt on fresh salads and vegetables because of its lightness and texture.
Bread cubes on sheet pan

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Toast the bread. Spread out the cubed bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 325 °Fahrenheit for about 10-15 minutes. It should be lightly toasted with crisp edges and softish centers.
  2. Prep the tomatoes. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl and toss with the sea salt. Let them sit and absorb the salt while the bread is toasting.
  3. Make the dressing. Start by adding the garlic, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar to a small mixing bowl. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  4. Assemble the salad. After the bread has cooled, add it to the bowl with the tomatoes. Then add the cucumbers, red onion, mozzarella, half the parmesan, basil, and parsley.
  5. Dress the salad. Pour the dressing over the salad, season with Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and toss to coat. Let rest for about 30-45 minutes stirring occasionally so the bread soaks up the dressing.
  6. Serve. Transfer to serving plate if desired and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese. If you don’t prefer the “snowy” look, just toss all of it in the salad instead.
Panzanella salad in bowl with dressing pouring over
Panzanella salad in bowl with serving spoons

Leftovers and storage

  • If you plan on leftovers, keep the dressing separate and don’t assemble until ready to serve.
  • Panzanella can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. However, the bread will be soggier than when fresh.

Panzanella salad with serving spoons on a platter

More delicious Maplevine Kitchen salads and veggies to try!

panzanella salad on a platter with wooden serving spoons

Panzanella Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

This classic Tuscan-style bread and tomato salad with a zesty lemon and red wine vinaigrette is a terrific summer salad when the tomatoes are at their best, but with its Christmas-y colors and "snowy" shredded parmesan, why not make it a festive wintertime salad too!
By: AllieAllie Cleveland
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6
Calories 473 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 5 cups rustic Italian loaf or ciabatta cut into bite size cubes
  • 1 ½ lbs. tomatoes chopped (or halved if using cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 English cucumber quartered and chopped
  • ½ red onion chopped
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese mini balls (ciliegine) or cut into bite size pieces
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • cup fresh basil torn
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • 4 oz. parmesan cheese freshly grated
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Himalayan salt to taste (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Toast the bread. Spread out the cubed bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 325 °Fahrenheit for about 10-15 minutes. It should be lightly toasted with crisp edges and softish centers.
  • Prep the tomatoes. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl and toss with sea salt. Let them sit and marinate while the bread is toasting.
  • Make the dressing. Start by adding the garlic, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar to a small mixing bowl. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  • Assemble the salad. After the bread has cooled, add it to the bowl with the tomatoes. Then add the cucumbers, red onion, mozzarella, half the parmesan, basil, and parsley.
  • Dress the salad. Pour the dressing over the salad, season with Himalayan salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and toss to coat. Let rest for about 30-45 minutes stirring occasionally so the bread soaks up the dressing.
  • Serve. Transfer to serving plate if desired and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese. If you don't prefer the "snowy" look, just toss all of it in the salad instead.

Recipe Notes

Tomato selection – during the summer peak season you can choose plump, well-ripened vine or heirloom tomatoes for this recipe. But when out of season, cherry or grape tomatoes are the better choice.
Leftovers – If you plan on leftovers or as a make-ahead dish, keep the dressing separate and don’t assemble until ready to serve.
Storage – panzanella can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator, however, the bread will be soggier than when fresh.

Nutrition

Calories: 473kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.9g | Protein: 17.9g | Fat: 29.1g | Saturated Fat: 10.5g | Sodium: 820mg | Fiber: 1.4g | Sugar: 3.3g

*Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Maplevine Kitchen makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Keyword cucumber, tomatoes
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