Why Panzanella Should Be the Official Salad of Summer

By: Emily Lee

Summer dining is all about ease and convenience, so if you’re agonizing over the perfect salad to pair with your pork tenderloin or grilled chicken, you’re seriously overthinking it. Intricate slaws that require a half-hour of chopping and grain salads that require you to boil water get a lot of hype during this time of year, but we think there’s a superior option that best encapsulates the easy, laid-back nature of summer dining.

Let us introduce panzanella, a traditional Italian salad made with day-old bread, olive oil, tomatoes and basil. These are just the staples, as many modern recipes go above and beyond the call of duty by featuring cucumber, bell pepper, red onion and more of the season’s finest produce.

But what we love the most about this hearty dish is the fact that it has the potential to reduce food waste. That’s right: The crustier the bread, the better. So before you even think about tossing that half loaf of stale bread on your countertop, check out these quick, easy and flavorful panzanellas from Food Network.

Cucumber, red onion, basil and heirloom tomatoes are mixed together to create an eye-catching rainbow of edible color in Ree Drummond’s rustic bread salad. When selecting the bread, go for a crustier loaf that will hold its shape against the olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing. If you want to avoid using the oven, you can cut up the bread and let it dry out at room temperature overnight.

Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella

Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella

Giada De Laurentiis introduces tender, earthy-tasting artichoke hearts to the classic panzanella recipe of bread, tomatoes, basil and olive oil. “It is a great go-to recipe because I always have the ingredients in my pantry,” she says.

Introduce grilled sirloin and crunchy romaine lettuce to day-old French bread, and you’ll have the most-satisfying lunch you’ve tasted this summer. Ripe tomatoes and parsley help to brighten dish, but you should heed our advice and add thick-sliced salami or turkey for a touch of umami.

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Alice Gao, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Adding silken cubes of milky mozzarella is one way to switch up the classic mix of bread and summer vegetables. For another note of complexity, use smoked mozzarella. Here it pairs beautifully with the tangy Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

This Greek take on panzanella showcases two of summer’s best and most-abundant vegetables: cucumbers and tomatoes. Grilling the pitas, tomatoes and red onion slices lends a smokiness that goes perfectly with the zesty vinaigrette dressing.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Giada prepares the ultimate warm-weather salad by tossing big cubes of buttery cornbread with cherry tomatoes, basil, crunchy cucumber and fontina cheese. Olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest, plus salt and pepper, come together in her quick dressing to unite her summery salad ingredients.


Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Food Network Kitchen chefs put a healthier spin on this filling summer salad by using whole-grain boule in place of refined white bread. Sweet balsamic vinegar and serrano chiles lend bold flavor notes to this otherwise delicate mix of corn, tomatoes and cilantro.

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