Cook's Illustrated Recipes»Casseroles»Italian»Vegetables»Italian Bread Salad Panzanella with Olives and Feta Recipe

The biggest challenge in making this classic Italian tomato-bread salad is solving an age-old quandary: What's the best way to deal with the bread?

The Problem

It doesn’t take long for panzanella’s lightly moistened bread to turn unpleasantly soggy, ruining this simple and fresh summer staple.

The Goal

We wanted a substantial side dish that featured ripe summer tomatoes and lightly moistened bread brought together by a bright vinaigrette.

The Solution

When done well, panzanella benefits from some of the tomatoes’ sweet juice, which mixes with the tangy dressing and moistens the dry bread until it’s soft and just a little chewy. To make the tomatoes exude some of their liquid, we tossed them with some salt and set them in a colander to drain. A few minutes later, they’d shed a good bit of juice, into which we whisked the oil and vinegar, creating our dressing.

Browning brings out fuller flavor, so we staled our bread in the oven until it turned light golden brown. When combined with the dressing, this bread was nutty-tasting and lightly saturated with the flavorful dressing. After allowing the two components to combine for few minutes, we stirred in the tomatoes.

For the finishing touches, we chose vegetables such as cucumber and herbs such as basil. And because we knew that this salad was destined to become a staple, we whipped up a few other versions, using sweet red bell pepper, arugula, garlic, and olives.