A panzanella is like deconstructed bruschetta, where you chop day old bread and toss it like a salad with cherry or heirloom tomatoes, red onion, basil, oil and vinegar. It’s a popular Tuscan or Italian lunch or dinner, but you can easily enjoy it right at home because it’s ready in just 15 minutes.
This salad is the very essence of simple summer eating, where the focus is on the quality of the ingredients with some acidity to make everything vibrant and balanced.
Choosing the Best Summer Tomatoes
Look for tomatoes May through August when they are in season. Heirloom, cherry, or grape tomatoes are rich and sweet in flavor (so are beefsteak tomatoes from your garden).
To add even more texture, there’s creamy Great Northern beans and crumbled feta. Canned beans are already cooked, so it’s as simple as rinsing them and throwing them in a bowl.
While you could toast the bread and warm the tomatoes in a skillet, I like to grill them for about 2 minute because the grill marks really add the wow factor to this panzanella. If you happen to live in an apartment and don’t have access to a grill, I really like heating a cast iron griddle over the burners and turning on the fan (or opening a window).
So, why fire up the grill?
Grilling softens the tomatoes and creates this burst of tomato juice for the bread cubes to sop up. Seriously delicious (and watch out if you’re wearing a white shirt).
How to Grill Cherry Tomatoes and Bread for Panzanella
To start, preheat the grill on the highest setting and slice or cube the bread; you want the cubes to be larger than your grill grates, so they don’t fall through.
Brush the bread and cherry tomatoes with olive oil. If you are using heirloom tomatoes, you can cut them in half. Cherry or grape tomatoes can remain whole.
Pour the tomatoes and bread cubes onto the hot grill grates, using a pair of tongs to turn. You will need to work quickly because the char marks only take about 1 to 2 minutes to appear.
Grilling Tip: I recommend collecting any toasted or charred pieces in a bowl, which you can set next to the grill for convenience.
Assemble and Serve the Salad
To serve, gently toss the grilled tomatoes and bread with the vinaigrette, beans, onion, and fresh basil. Make sure to serve with crumbled feta. Since feta is salty, you may not need to add any extra salt. For a super light summer meal, serve the panzanella as-is or wash it down with a refreshing mint lime soda.
Bursting Cherry Tomato Panzanella
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes
- 8 ounces French bread cut into 1-inch chunks
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 15.5-oz can Great Northern beans rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion from about ½ an onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- Heat a grill to high (450°F to 550°F). Brush tomatoes and bread with 2 tablespoon olive oil, and pour tomatoes and bread on grates; grill until charred on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a large bowl.
- To the bread and tomatoes, add feta, beans, onion, basil, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil; gently toss. Divide salad among 4 plates and serve immediately.
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