Looking for a no-cook summer supper idea? How about one that uses up almost-overripe tomatoes and stale bread? Panzanella is an Italian summer salad that is best made with the ripest summer tomatoes you can find — and the perfect way to use those tomatoes sitting on your kitchen counter.
Panzanella can be served as a side dish or the main course — because I was serving this for Meatless Monday, I added cannellini (or white kidney) beans to boost the protein content. A good quality cheese — parmigiano reggiano or my personal favorite, a sharp pecorino — is a great finishing touch. Because I use canned beans to save time (see note below), I like to cook them with a little garlic first to add flavor. You can omit that step if you prefer, or if you’re more organized than I and cook dried beans ahead of time.
Recipe: Panzanella with Cannellini Beans
- 1 loaf day-old Italian bread
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans*
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 large, very ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 handful fresh basil, thinly sliced
- parmigiano or pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus 1 tablespoon for the beans)
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- sea salt and black pepper
* I use Eden brand organic, BPA-free canned beans
Instructions: Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium low. Cook garlic for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Rinse and drain the canned beans, then add them to the pan, stirring to combine with the garlic. Cook on low for 5 minutes.
In a large salad bowl, pour the bread cubes, cooked beans, tomatoes and basil. Separately, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette. Drizzle over the salad and toss gently to combine. Let the salad sit on the counter for 15-30 minutes to let the flavors meld before eating. Just before serving, grate some cheese over top. Makes 4-6 servings. Enjoy!
Note: this recipe depends on juicy tomatoes to moisten the salad — if your salad seems dry, add additional olive oil and vinegar to taste.