The Absolute Best Bread For Traditional Panzanella

Bowl of panzanella with spoon
Bowl of panzanella with spoon - Susan Olayinka/Tasting Table

An absolute necessity in a traditional panzanella is some sort of bread, because it's essentially a bread salad. The bread needs to hold up to the dressing and juicy tomatoes, so the dish is one of the best ways to use the stale bread in the back of your cabinet — but what variety of bread is best for the Tuscan-inspired salad? A crusty, dense option like ciabatta is one of the go-to breads for panzanella, but it's certainly not the only option that works.

To keep it classic, cook Tasting Table's heirloom tomato panzanella recipe that uses a loaf of ciabatta to pull together the other ingredients like tomatoes and fresh herbs. However, recipe developer Susan Olayinka, who created our version of the dish, says that sourdough bread also works in place of ciabatta. Other crusty breads like a French loaf, Italian bread, or even baguette also work in a panzanella salad. As delicious as soft breads like brioche and challah might taste, steer clear of them for panzanella because they will likely get soggy and not provide that density and crunch that this traditional recipe hinges on. For quick results, you can cheat and use store-bought croutons, but it won't be quite as delicious as homemade.

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How To Prepare Your Crusty Bread For Panzanella

Pieces of bread on cutting board
Pieces of bread on cutting board - Susan Olayinka/Tasting Table

After you secure the baguette, ciabatta, or other crusty bread, there are still a few other steps to ensure the best bread holds up in the panzanella. Since stale bread is the best option, so try to think ahead of time to make this salad. For best results, tear or cut the bread apart into bite-sized pieces, then let them sit out overnight. If that's not possible, follow our recipe and broil the pieces of bread in the oven for 1 minute per side according to Olayinka's guidance. Alternatively, toss the bread in olive oil, then bake off in an oven set at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 15 minutes.

The other step to pull off a flavorful (and not soggy) panzanella is to add the rest of the ingredients, including the dressing or vinaigrette, then toss in the bread last so it has enough time to soak up the flavors but not turn too soft before the first bite. To make this dish ahead of time, keep the salad, dressing, and bread separate until it's almost time to serve. Should you have any leftover stale bread and want to try a less conventional recipe, use the crusty pieces in our panzanella-style beef and noodles summer salad recipe.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.