The Italians love their pasta. They also love their Panzanella. Variations of this dish are known throughout the boot of Italy, though, there is nothing quite like savoring the flavors of this dish – especially in the Summer. Tomatoes are ripe and plentiful, and gatherings with friends are many. Preparation for Panzanella is easy for the novice cook, and the freshness in flavor is bound to impress anyone. Paired with a crisp bottle of Roero Arneis, the fruit forward notes provide a subtle balance while still offering a bit of a bite. Raise a glass, send off the Summer season in style!
1 (12- to 16-ounce) loaf sourdough bread
2 to 3 large heirloom tomatoes
1/2 large cucumber
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper
1/2 medium red onion
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
Slice or tear the bread into roughly 1-inch cubes. I usually leave the crusts on, but you can remove them if you prefer. You should have about 10 overflowing cups of bread. Tear your bread for a more rustic presentation.
Spread the bread cubes over a baking sheet. Bake in a 300°F oven until hardened on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking.
Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. Peel, and deseed the cucumber. Slice the onion into thin slices and soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 to 15 minutes while assembling the rest of the salad.
Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a small bowl and whisk together.
Combine the bread and chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and thoroughly combine.
Let the salad sit for 1/2 hour to 4 hours: Let the salad sit at least half an hour before serving, or up to 4 hours. Stir occasionally so the juices and vinaigrette are evenly distributed.
Add fresh basil just before serving. This salad is best eaten the day it’s made.