Panzanella is a simple and delicious peasant Tuscan dish that has been passed down throughout many generations. Although some put their special twist to this traditional dish, most prepare it with just a few ingredients. Bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, basil, a little vinegar and very generous drizzle of good olive oil. Panzanella is a perfect summer comfort food prepared when the tomatoes are ripe and a deep red on the vine. Made with day old bread previously soaked in water and vinegar, this Tuscan staple will certainly become one of your family's favorites. Let's get started.
Slice the bread, remove the crust and cut into cubes. It is not necessary to remove the crust but some choose to do so.
Set 1/3 of the cubed bread on a baking sheet to toast in the oven. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toast them in the oven until golden brown. Remove the toasted bread from the oven and set aside.
Place the rest of the bread in a large bowl and soak in cold water with a splash of vinegar. Later you will squeeze the bread in order to remove the water.
As for the tomatoes slice a little over half of them and set aside.
For a different twist and extra flavor, set the cherry tomatoes on a baking pan, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow the tomatoes to caramelize. This process is totally optional. Traditionally only fresh tomatoes are used for Panzanella.
Slice the rest of the tomatoes, the cucumbers, as well as the onions.
In order to give the onions a milder and less intense flavor soak them in ice water with a splash of red-wine vinegar for 15-20 minutes.
With the help of both hands grab a handful at a time of soaked bread and squeeze the water.
Place all ingredients into a large serving bowl including the crunchy croutons and the fresh basil. Season everything with a generous amount of good olive oil, red wine vinegar and a good sprinkle of salt. Mix everything together.
Additional vinegar, olive oil and salt may need to be added. The Panzanella is now ready to be served! Enjoy!