Notes: The key to this salad is to use very dry or stale Italian bread. If you do not have stale bread on hand, I find that cutting the bread into slices and leaving it out to dry overnight works well. For a more rustic look to your salad, you can tear the bread into small pieces, although cutting it into chunks works just fine for me. When completing the initial soaking of the bread, dip your bread in the water until it is completely wet through and then remove it and immediately squeeze it to remove most of the water. Do not leave the bread in the water too long or it will break apart and not hold up well in the salad.
I have a huge herb garden here in Umbria, and I add fresh herbs to almost all of my dishes for added flavor. Since I like my salads to be as colorful as possible, when making panzanella I almost always add fresh herbs such as parsley and/or basil, tiny wild arugula leaves, or celery leaves.
I like to use sweet onions and prefer full-flavored olives such as Gaeta, Kalamata, Bella di Cerignola, or Taggiasca olives. In a salad, pitted olives are always preferred. Salted capers do have a more intense flavor than those sold in jars packed in vinegar, but they do need to be soaked well first to ensure they are not too salty in the final product.
- 1 pound loaf day old country style bread, cut into 1-inch slices
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes cut into chunks
- 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 3 medium cloves garlic finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh celery leaves
- 1 1/2 cups chopped drained marinated artichokes
- 1/4 cups pitted olives, cut in half
- 3 tablespoons chopped capers
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn into pieces
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Either cut your bread slices into 1 1/2 inch chunks, or tear into bite sized pieces. Fill a large bowl with cool water and dunk the bread into the water just until it is wet through. Squeeze the bread with your hand discarding the soaking water and place the bread in a large serving bowl.
Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, celery stalks and leaves, artichokes, olives, capers, parsley, and basil in with the bread and lightly toss to mix. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and then pour over the bread mixture. Toss to mix well, season with more salt and pepper if necessary, then serve.