Panzanella dates back to the 1600’s, originating in Tuscany. It’s most pure form is much simpler than I have made here. Most versions today have been beefed up, so to speak. Mine is definitely pumped up from the true classic version.
We are at the height of asparagus season and I seem to have it coming out of my ears. Before I made this dish, I kid you not, I had thirteen bunches in my refrigerator. So look for several posts using asparagus in the next little bit.
A few notes about my version, I didn’t have day old bread. I had week-old bread, which was far too stale or freshly baked bread. I opted to take my freshly baked bread and make it “day old” bread by drying it slightly in the oven. We have two bread vendors at the Farmer’s Market, and one of them had the exact bread I needed, Tuscan White, which has a very, very mild sourdough taste to it. Bread that is 1-3 days old is best. Also this is generally a raw dish, but I did a quick sauté of the asparagus to soften it.
The classic Tuscan bread salad updated with seasonally fresh asparagus in a mildly tangy balsamic dressing.
- 5 cups cubed Tuscan white bread
- 1 lb . asparagus; woody ends trimmed , and sliced in half
- 1 small red onion; sliced
- 12 oz . cherry tomatoes; halved
- 2 red bell peppers; sliced
- 18 basil leaves; chopped
- 4 oz . feta cheese
- 2 cloves garlic; grated/minced
- Just less than 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
- Salt/pepper to taste;
- Extra virgin olive oil
In a thick-bottomed sauté pan, heat a tablespoon or two of the olive oil on medium-high heat.
Once the oil is heated, add the asparagus.
Sauté the asparagus, stirring occasionally, for 6-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks.
Once cooked, remove from heat and allow it to cool.
While the asparagus is cooling, prep the rest of the dish.
In a very large mixing bowl, add the bread (see directions below on how to dry the bread if using a fresh loaf), halved tomatoes, sliced onions and peppers, feta cheese, garlic, and basil.
Toss the ingredients well.
In a smaller bowl, add the olive oil, both vinegars, and the salt and pepper.
Whisk it together quickly. Once it is blended, quickly pour half of it over the salad.
Toss the salad together well.
Whisk the remaining half again if needed and pour the remaining it over the salad and continue to toss until the entire salad is coated in the dressing.
Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
To turn fresh bread into day old bread
Preheat an oven to 375°.
Cube the bread into 1” pieces.
Place the cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer.
Once the oven is fully heated, place the baking tray in the oven and then turn the oven off.
Allow the bread to sit in the heated, but now cooling oven for 10-15 minutes or until they feel dried out.
Remove from the oven and set aside.