Panzanella is a classic Italian salad from Tuscany made with leftover stale bread soaked in water and combined with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and basil. The salad is dressed simply with vinegar and olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper. This refreshing dish is typically prepared during the summer and a staple food in Tuscan homes and kitchens. In this version, boiled gambas or shrimps are added to the salad for a scrumptious starter to a lovely lunch or special dinner recipes.
Tuscan cooking is founded on peasant cooking, called “la cucina povera,” and relies on simple preparations using fresh, local and homegrown ingredients. In the Tuscan kitchen, nothing goes to waste and Panzanella is a perfect example of the Tuscan cooking philosophy. The harder the bread, the better it is for making this simple gourmet recipe for the summer. This is perfect for using up any stale bread that you have lying around at home. Instead of throwing it away, you can make a beautiful dish.
Panzanella can be served as an appetizer or antipasto and also makes an excellent side dish to roasted or grilled meats, fish or seafood. The addition of gambas in this recipe transforms it into a light and healthy meal for diet days or dinners. Serve it with soup or a sandwich for a satisfying lunch. You can also add cooked chickpeas or kidney beans to the panzanella and serve it as a stand-alone meal.
The hard bread is soaked in water flavored with some vinegar to make it soft but not soggy. You can leave the salad in the fridge overnight after tossing it in the dressing. The flavors will meld and mellow and the bread will soak up all the wonderful flavors making it a truly refreshing salad dish that will chill the body and serve as a tonic.
24 gambas (shrimp, about 0.27 lbs. each)
0.66 lbs. chopped celery
carrots, and onions
2 laurel leaves
1 lbs. hardened bread
0.44 lbs. tomatoes (for the salad)
0.33 lbs. cucumbers
1 oz. chopped onions
1/4 cup cold-pressed pure olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
12 fresh basil leaves cut en julienne (into long thin match sticks)
1. In a pot, add lemon juice, celery, carrot, onion, and laurel. Cover in 12 ½ cups water and boil for about 15 minutes. Add the gambas and simmer for 3 minutes or until the shrimps float on the surface and change color. Drain the gambas and peel the skin, remove the extreme of the tail.
2. Cut the stale bread into pieces, soak in 12 ½ cups water flavored with 1/4 cup of vinegar for about 2 hours. Drain well.
3. Dice the celery, cucumbers, and tomatoes and place in a terrine dish. Add the drained bread. Season with oil, salt, and vinegar. Let it rest for about one hour.
4. Arrange Panzanella and gambas on the serving dish. Garnish with basil and round tomato slices. Season with olive oil and serve.