Panzanella is the name of a rustic Tuscan summer dish. It does not require cooking and was originally consumed by the farmers who stayed in the fields all day. As for many dishes from the cucina povera, this uses up leftovers, in particular stale bread. The name probably originates from the farmer’s habit to wet the stale bread and mix it in a bowl with the vegetables found in their own garden; then “pan” and “zanella” (which means soup plate, soup bowl). Although there seems to be endless variations of panzanella, I prefer to stick to the traditional recipe but you can try it adding capers, anchovies, tuna, hard-boiled eggs and olives if you want a richer main dish.
Tomatoes- 2 ripe large (or cherry tomatoes, whatever is less watery)
Basil- 15 leaves
White wine vinegar- 3 tbsp
Bread- rustic Tuscan style sliced 400 g
Salt and black pepper- q.b (to taste)
Onion- 1 big red
Cucumber- 1 small
Celery- 1 stalk
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 6-8 tbsp
- Peel and cut the onion into thin slices and then soak it in a bowl with water and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar for at least 1 hour.
- Peel the cucumber, cut into thin slices and set aside.
- Peel and chop the tomatoes, remove the seeds and set aside.
- Take the sliced bread and moisten it with a solution of water and vinegar (one tablespoon), without soaking them too much. Once the bread is just softened, squeeze it, chop coarsely by hand and place in large bowl.
- Drain the red onion from its soaking water and add to the bread together with the tomatoes, celery, cucumber and the basil leaves chopped by hand.
- Gently mix all the ingredients with a spoon, season with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir again, taste and, if necessary, add more vinegar.
- Let the panzanella rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour, so that flavor will be enhanced. Remove it from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.
Buona fine estate!