Panzanella Alla Senese

The other day, still recovering from my cold, I was reading about pane toscano (tuscan bread) and about how in the old days bread was never thrown away. Tuscan cuisine is indeed particularly renown for its bread-based recipes, like ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, and panzanella.

Wow, panzanella… I suddenly realized I have not had it in years and felt like I wanted to honor this simple dish again. But first I consulted my encyclopedia (it really is) of traditional Italian cooking (24 volumes, region by region) and in Volume 1 of tuscan cuisine I found a list of something like 15 different variations of Panzanella, each coming from a very narrow area in Tuscany, often a small village, sometimes a town.

I liked the senese (from the lovely town of Siena) version of panzanella because of its simplicity and the addition of onion.


You need: stale bread (I used my spelt sourdough), ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, onion, marine salt, olive oil, freshly ground pepper.

How to: chop the tomatoes and the basil and slice the onion very thin. Combine all in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients (except the bread). Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile soak the sliced bread in cold water and then rinse in a kitchen towel, to drain part of the water. The bread must be wet but not mushy. Pour the tomatoes mixture over the bread.

CONSIDERATIONS: The author of the Tuscan volumes of my Italian cuisine encyclopedia is called Giovanni Righi Parenti and is an “etnogastronomo” (someone who is paid to read and write about food history) and sometimes I wish I was a professional ethno-gastronomy expert, too… it is so fun to read about the origins of dishes and then trying them out. And how interesting to find out that some dishes have remained unchanged for centuries yet can still appeal to our modern taste buds. Like this simple panzanella, which was a quick hunger fix and tasted just delicious. Easy, healthy, tasty.

This is going to YeastSpotting. Many thanks to Susan for continuing to host this event and welcome back!

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My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara)

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16 replies
  1. Chef Pamela
    Chef Pamela says:

    Since playing with the no knead bread recipe, I have a lot of stale bread on hand right now.
    This will be perfect with wine and friends before dinner.
    Thanks for the food origin information too. Knowing more about the food you eat makes being a foodie person so much more fun!
    Nice pictures. I enjoy you blog.

  2. cityhippyfarmgirl
    cityhippyfarmgirl says:

    I would love to flick through your cookbook encyclopedia, so many wonderful regional Italian dishes to play with. This one included!
    (you don’t by chance know the name of a particular dried hard bread from I think the puglia region. You add water to soften it up a little, then add something like tomatoes and olive oil?)

  3. My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara)
    My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara) says:

    @Cityhippyfarmgirl: yepp, know that bread and have the recipe. they are called friselle and are typical also of a nearby Southern region, Campania (where Napoli is). I was thinking of posting about them just… yesterday. you are a mind reader.
    @Kim: no worries and good luck with your ankle.
    @Chef Pamela: hi there! I agree, this would make a great appetizer with wine (and friends). thank you so much for all your nice comments.

  4. Veronica
    Veronica says:

    I’ve heard of panzanella salad, but never seen it the fillings piled on bread like this–I like it! Sounds so delicious. I love that we can keep history alive by making old recipes like this.

  5. luvnspoonfuls
    luvnspoonfuls says:

    What a delicious and lovely antidote to the overdose of complicated food that was Thanksgiving (at least in my part of the world). I am definitely keeping this one…maybe for this weekend. It looks so tempting. I agree…the cookbooks I love the most delve into the history of the dish and ingredients…can’t get enough of that!

  6. My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara)
    My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara) says:

    @Luvnspoonfuls: I am sure that if you try this dish you won’t be disappointed. glad that you share my interest food origins and history!
    @Veronica: then it’s time to try this, ins’t it? I used to have panzanella often as a snack when I was a kid. Then the invasion of industrial junk food reached Italy too… never too late to go back.
    @Karen: wow, what a compliment! thank you so much for your nice words, really made my day.
    @Cozydelicious: hi there and welcome! So fun to get to discover new food blogs, I will be visiting yours supersoon. And yes, easy, tasty and healthy is really unbeatable (even if it sounds like a commercial, doesn’t it?)
    @Angie: thanks. If you try the panzanella let me know how you liked it.


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