Panzanella a Tuuscan saled perfect for hot summer nights

The Food of Italy: Panzanella and Tuscany

By Region Central Italy Life in Italy News

In this series, we delve into the culinary delights of Italy. Tuscany – home to Florence, Siena, Lucca and many more beautiful towns, villages and cities – is where you’ll find this salad. Panzanella, a basic yet filling salad perfect for those hot summer nights.

If you were to think of a key Italian ingredient, you’d certainly land on tomatoes. The base for many a pasta sauce, key to the richness of pizza, it is also integral to Panzanella salad. Along with day-old bread, tomatoes are key to this dish.

Best eaten when the tomatoes are fully ripe (summer), this dish will keep you satisfied without having to stand over a hot stove on a sultry evening. It also ticks the no food waste box by utlising left over bread.

As we’ve been sweltering in successive heatwaves in the summer of 2023, this has been a fantastic option to keep the hunger pangs at bay with a no-cook salad dish.

History of Panzanella salad

As with many dishes, the true origin is lost in the mists of time. However, we have the 16th century poet artist and poet Bronzino singing the praises of onions with oil and vinegar served with toast. Bronzino also speaks of a salad of onions, purslane, and cucumbers; both descriptions are interpreted as a description of panzanella.

“Un’insalata di Cipolla trita con la porcellanetta e cetriuoli vince ogn’altro piacer di questa vita.”

Translation: “A salad made with chopped onions, purslane [a type of wild lettuce], and cucumbers surpasses all other pleasures in this life.”

Yes, onions! Whilst tomatoes may be a key ingredient now, it is not too far back in time that it was the onion which dominated with the bread.

So where does the name derive from? Some think it comes from pane for bread, and zanella – the deep dish in which it is traditionally served.

This dish is a staple of the Fiorentine summer, so if you’re in the city and don’t find it on the summer menu, you’re probably in a ‘tourist trap’ eaterie.

Panzanella salad close up
Panzanella with rucula


Serving Size:
6 people
30 minutes


  • 400g of 2-day-old bread (preferably Tuscan bread)
  • 4 ripe salad tomatoes
  • 2 red onions (preferably Tuscan)
  • 2 cucumbers (optional)
  • Basil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt


  1. Cube the bread and soak in cold water for 15 minutes.
  2. Squeeze excess water from the bread.
  3. Chop the onions, tomatoes and cucumber (if you’re using it).
  4. In a soup dish, add the bread, vegetables and salt them generously. You can add some basil if you wish at this point.
  5. Mix together well, then place in the fridge.
  6. When you are ready to serve, remove from the fridge and add the red wine vinegar. Toss the salad well.
  7. Garnish with basil leaves, and extra slices of onion and tomato, rucula or purslance if you wish.

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