Aug 21, 2009

Insalata Panzanella


It’s Hot here. That’s Hot with a capital H for ya, because you see, Dutch houses generally don’t have air conditioning and the temperature in my living room went up to 85 today. It was 85! Argh. I just can’t cook in this kind of heat so in stead we made tons of grilled chicken, steaks and fish on the BBQ and I served salads with it. Simple, tasty and gorgeous salads. Big chunks of fresh flat-bread on the side. It’s the best summer food anyway.

This is a personal favorite of mine: Insalata Panzanella. It’s just as good as my Insalata Surprise. Panzanella is an amazing Tuscan summer bread salad! The bread soaks up the lovely tomato juices and dressing making it irresistible to bread lovers such as myself.

I do give my panzanella a slight Kayotic twist. Like you expected anything else, huh?


1/2 ciabatta
8 oz fresh tomatoes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
fresh lemon juice
small bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1/3 red onion
1/2 an avocado
fresh basil
2 tbsp oil


* I’ve made a salad for two

Most Italian salads are simple, so using good quality ingredients is important. I’ve used the best there are; homegrown tomatoes. I tried to grow some bell peppers as well this year but well, as you can see in the photo below, it wasn’t really a success. These two tiny peppers are all I have to show for my hard labor.


Grab a large garlic clove, cut it in half and rub it all over the bowl you’ll be serving the salad in. This will add a lovely yet mild garlic flavor.

Wash and coarsely chop your tomatoes. I love how red they look.

Plunge them in the bowl. This bowl is so old but I just can’t do away with it, it looks summery to me.

Chop the bell pepper. As tiny as they were, it was the perfect amount for this salad and their flavor was unsurpassed. Especially the sweet pointed (baby) pepper was fabulous. Add them to the tomatoes.

Thinly slice the red onion. No big chunks, okay? No salad benefits from that.

Grab a handful of fresh basil leaves.

Dig your hands in there and mix up the vegetables. Rip up the basil leaves and add those as well.

The whole idea of a panzanella is to release the tomato juices and let it blend in with the dressing, so I sprinkle some salt all over to get those tomato juices flowing. Kayotic Kitchen goes decadent, I’m using my beloved Fleur de Sel for this.


Season generously (real generously) with salt and crack some black pepper on top.

Time to make the dressing. Mine is pretty basic: I combine 2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil with 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. The dressing thickens when you stir it.

Pour the dressing all over the vegetables and combine. I love working with my hands, but you can use a spoon as well. Set the bowl aside for a little while to allow the flavors to blend.

Another key ingredient to panzanella is bread. Or should I say Ciabatta? You can use regular bread, you can toast it first, or toss it in a skillet with some oil, but I like to use the bread as is. I wouldn’t dream of using regular bread, a panzanella without ciabatta is no panzanella to me, that’s sacrilege.


The whole point of adding bread is that it sucks up the juices, so toasting it just doesn’t make sense to me either. I simply break the ciabatta in coarse pieces, add it to the vegetables and carefully combine it.

Now this is not part of an original Panzanella (as far as I know), but it does give it a little extra flavor. At least I like to think it does. I thinly slice half an avocado (inside the skin) and use the back of my knife to gently scoop out the slices.

Randomly add the avocado slices to the salad.

Garnish the salad with a few whole basil leaves and serve with a nice piece of grilled whitefish topped with a dollop of green pesto. Now that’s food as food was meant to be. Simple, honest and assolutamente squisito.

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    1. 1

      This looks really good. Now looking for a good ciabatta recipe.

      kirsty_girl on Aug 21, 2009 @ 9:20 am Reply
    2. 2

      This looks beautiful, Kay. If only I had 1/3 your photography and cooking skills.

      Sonya on Aug 21, 2009 @ 11:04 am Reply
    3. 3


      I get so excited when you post cold salad recipes. I’m always looking for more of them to serve in the summer time.

      Seanna on Aug 21, 2009 @ 11:41 am Reply
    4. 4

      Now that looks really good. As for air conditioning, I only have it in the bedrooms so I feel your pain with the heat. On top of that I have to can pickles today too!!

      Colleen on Aug 21, 2009 @ 1:21 pm Reply
    5. 5

      My sister and I were just talking the other day about Panzanella and so funny that you posted a recipe today. I’m so glad you talked about whether or not to toast the bread because that was the question my sister, Cindy, asked me. You know, I had an Italian childhood friend whose Dad used to make the
      best tossed salad…it was so different from the “American” made salads topped with bottled salad dressings. He would crush garlic in some red wine vinegar in a juice glass. Pour it over his salad ingred. (usually lettuce and/or endive, dandelion greens, etc. with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives)toss it with some salt and then really good extra-virgin olive oil. That salad was so good and I’m glad I learned how to make it from him. But the best part of the whole thing was sopping up all that juicy dressing at the bottom of the bowl with good Italian bread. So I can’t wait to try this recipe…I think I’ll make it & invite Cindy for lunch!

      Andilynn on Aug 21, 2009 @ 1:50 pm Reply
    6. 6


      It depends on how you like the bread best, but I think toasting the bread is not how it’s originally supposed to be. You use stale ciabatta for this salad. They probably mistook the bread part in this salad for croutons or something. I once even saw a panzanella made with crackers. Ewwww.

      Kay on Aug 21, 2009 @ 1:56 pm Reply
    7. 7

      Thanks so much for this beautiful recipe. I actually made a Panzanella about a week ago and it was awful! The recipe I was using had me toast the bread cubes and then pour over a dressing with lots of balsamic vinegar in it. Well, the bread turned a gross shade of brown and the whole salad was just ruined because the bread was all squishy and very ugly. Next time I want Panzanella, THIS is the recipe I’ll use!

      Lana on Aug 21, 2009 @ 2:18 pm Reply
    8. 8


      I only use a tiny amount of red wine vinegar for a bit of extra flavor, but I wouldn’t take it past 2 tbsp. It overpowers other flavors then. I can’t imagine balsamic vinegar in a panzanella, could be an interesting flavor when you add a few drops to the dressing, though. Have to try it soon!

      Kay on Aug 21, 2009 @ 2:21 pm Reply
    9. 9

      Yummy! That looks mouth watering!!

      Cindy on Aug 21, 2009 @ 2:33 pm Reply
    10. 10

      This will be worth the carbs! It looks sooo yummy. I’ve been wanting to make panzanella for years, and your instructions give me the confidence (and desire) to finally to it! I think the ciabiatta is key :)

      Do you have printable instructions on your site?

      Debbie on Aug 21, 2009 @ 3:00 pm Reply
    11. 11

      I know what I am having for dinner tonight. Thanks for another great recipe!

      Meghan A on Aug 21, 2009 @ 3:52 pm Reply
    12. 12

      Thank you for a great recipe not drenched in oil and with fresh bread. Have been wanting to make Panzanella for a long time but didn’t trust the Food Network version by Ina. I’m fortunate to have a store where I can purchase wonderful ciabatta. Glad to see you too mixing the salad with your hands. That’s how my Mom taught me :)

      Anna on Aug 21, 2009 @ 4:36 pm Reply
    13. 13

      What a gorgeous panzanella! I love the avocado you added.

      Kerstin on Aug 21, 2009 @ 5:10 pm Reply
    14. 14

      Wow. That looks amazing. Exactly what I need today.

      Sorry about your heat. We couldn’t do without a/c around here. We’ve been having temps over 100 for a few days, although I think today has “cooled” into the 90’s.

      Karen (KayKay) on Aug 21, 2009 @ 5:31 pm Reply
    15. 15

      @Karen (KayKay):

      It was 104 here. Crazy. It’s not supposed to be that hot in the Netherlands. Thank God the temp dropped today.

      Kay on Aug 21, 2009 @ 5:36 pm Reply
    16. 16

      Sounds like a lovely salad – I like the idea of adding avocado. Also, I just made you pesto russo and it was perfect! Thank You!


      justine on Aug 21, 2009 @ 8:05 pm Reply
    17. 17

      Refreshing looking salad, and lovely pictures! I even love your salad bowl! Ha! I like the twist of adding some avocado to it. But then, ANY excuse to use avocado is a good thing.

      Problem is.. I can eat that whole thing myself! Hmm… will have to double it…

      Trish in MO on Aug 21, 2009 @ 11:31 pm Reply
    18. 18

      Lovely!! And guess what: I have just put my poolish in the fridge for the ciabatta that I will be baking tomorrow.

      Anda on Aug 22, 2009 @ 10:43 pm Reply
    19. 19

      …Girl, you rock. :o)

      …Thank you!


      tj on Aug 23, 2009 @ 3:34 am Reply
    20. 20

      I made this for my boyfriend last night and we both loved it! Thanks! The only variation was I added more avocado and some parm. cheese on top.

      Erin on Sep 1, 2009 @ 3:50 am Reply
    21. 21

      I love panzanella, and this one looks fabulous! The avocado in there sounds great.

      Carrie on Sep 8, 2009 @ 9:06 pm Reply

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