Tuscan Tomato, Cucumber and Bread Salad

August 26, 2009 4 Comments

Tuscan Tomato, Cucumber and Bread Salad

Tuscan Bread Salad or Panzanella

Tuscan Tomato, Cucumber & Bread Salad

Right now I am into everything Tuscan, Italy because I just finished reading The Reluctant Tuscan (I will talk much more about this wonderful book in another post) and am now reading Frances Mayes’ Under The Tuscan Sun, another delightful book about an American buying a home in Tuscany and the effect it has on them.

My wife and I honeymooned in Tuscany years ago and I forgot just how beautiful the hill towns are and how different the lifestyle is compared to the United States. These two books describe in wonderful detail the everyday life of Tuscan families.

After reading The Reluctant Tuscan and halfway through Under The Tuscan Sun I have a new understanding of my childhood experiences with my best friends from Italian decent. I spent a lot of teenage summer weekends at  Pasqual Benvenuto’s home and never understood why they had these huge Sunday meals in the basement set up as a second kitchen with his family and their extended family.

We would spend hours eating and talking and watching his family yell at each other, then hug and kiss. It looked bizarre to me then but now I understand it is just part of their culture. Food and the act of dining together is a huge aspect of the Italian lifestyle and now I want to learn everything I can about Tuscan cooking.

Tuscan Tomato, Cucumber & Bread Salad

Last night I had the opportunity to prepare this simple salad with fresh local ingredients that we always have on hand while vacationing in Avalon at the Jersey shore. I brought down some wonderful extra virgin olive oil given to us by a friend and some six year old Pedroni’s Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) but you can use a less expensive balsamic vinegar and have great results.

Let me quote Frances Mayes as she describes how to simply put this salad together,

Panzanella, little swamp, is another tomato favorite, a salad of oil, vinegar, tomatoes, basil, cucumber, minced onion, and stale bread soaked in water and squeezed dry – a true invention from necessity. Since bread must be bought every day, Tuscan cooking makes good use of leftovers.”

At first I didn’t think it would taste very good but–I mean, wet bread?!–but after dressing the salad and letting it sit for a while, the bread gave the salad a wonderful texture and absorbed some of the seasoning with the juices from the vegetables. It was amazing.  And it went great with a chilled bottle of Prosecco!

Tuscan Tomato, Cucumber and Bread Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Serving Size: 2 servings

Tuscan Tomato, Cucumber and Bread Salad


For the Salad

3 small tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2 medium onion, diced

a large handful of basil, washed and dried

1/4-1/3 leftover baguette, pulled or cut into bite-sized pieces

water for soaking

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

How To Prepare At Home

Soak the bread in water until softened. Squeeze out as much excess water as you can.

Combine all the salad ingredients together in a bowl.

Whisk together the oil and vinegar. Season with just a bit of salt and pepper.

Toss the dressing with the salad. Let sit for a few minutes to let the bread soak up the flavors of the dressing and vegetables.


Last modified on Wed 16 July 2014 9:30 am

Filed in: Salad Recipes

Comments (4)

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  1. Jenni says:

    I absolutely love panzanella–this one sounds like a real winner, RG :)

  2. Linda Starr says:

    Oh, that looks delicious and refreshing.

  3. Lola says:

    Ciao! Lovely to see panzanella loved all over the globe! I posted an article on Tuscan panzanella 2 months ago PANZANELLA Under the Tuscan Bun

    I love your blog!

  4. Milena says:

    Love this recipe,love Italy,love my Italian…
    You may also enjoy reading 1000 days in Venice and 1000 days in Tuscany…

    Thanks Milena, I’ll look for them. Thanks for the suggestions – RG

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