You know when you have a really great sauce left over on your plate after a meal and you swipe some bread across it to soak it up? (Italians even have a name for this motion – scarpetta). Well, this saucy warm panzanella salad amplifies that idea into a complete meal.
Classic panzanella – also an Italian concept – is a summer salad of leftover bread, juicy tomatoes, onions, and olive oil. It’s a peasant cuisine staple designed to give past-its-prime bread a second life. As the salad sits (preferably on a wooden farm table, preferably somewhere in the Tuscan hills), the bread absorbs the tomato juice and oil, and voilà – second life achieved, baby.
So I know this warm panzanella isn’t exactly a salad since the vegetables are cooked, but “Stewed Vegetables Over Croutons” doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.
Like many of my favorite recipes, this dish was born haphazardly. I’d had some summer squash and tomatoes in the fridge, begging to be used up. It was late and we were hungry so I did the lazy thing and started to sauté them.
I flavored them with lots of minced garlic and red pepper flakes, and tossed in a can of chickpeas, too. And since I didn’t feel like cooking rice or pasta to go with the meal, I tore up some stale sourdough and toasted it in a skillet with lots of olive oil and spices. I divided the croutons among bowls, topped them with the sauce, and crowned everything with chopped herbs.
As I ate it, I realized it was a lot more interesting and delicious than I’d anticipated. The sweet, melty zucchini contrasted nicely with the puckery tomatoes, and the sauce was perfumed with spicy garlic throughout. The bread was slowly absorbing the sauce and there is just something so comforting about that. It’s safe to say this will go on to be a summer staple for us.
About the Ingredients
I recommend using a mix of green zucchini and yellow summer squash for contrast. But if you only have one or the other, that’s totally fine, too. Since this dish is so simple, use the best quality ingredients you can find. I’m referring to in-season summer squash and those good tomatoes (preferably from a local farmers market).
About the Skillet Croutons
For the bread, look for an artisan-style sourdough boule or crusty ciabatta. You want these croutons to be nicely crisped on the outside but still a little chewy on the inside for optimal sauce absorption. We are not going for hard, crunchy croutons here and no, do not use store-bought croutons from a bag. (I know I sound like Ina right now, but this is important!)Print
This warm panzanella salad with tomatoes, zucchini, yellow summer squash, and garlicky skillet croutons is a great way to use up stale bread.
For the Vegetables
- A generous glug of extra virgin olive oil
- About 2 1/4 pounds summer squash (4 medium zucchini, yellow summer squash, or a mix of both), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
- 1 medium red or yellow onion, cut into half-moons
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons, for serving
For the Croutons
- 3 thick slices sourdough or ciabatta bread, torn into bite-size bits
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- About 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- About 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- About 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Start the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large high-sided saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, and pinches of salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook until the vegetables are a little softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Stir in the tomatoes and chickpeas, and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with a lid, turn the heat down to low, and simmer until the vegetables are soft and the tomatoes have released their juice, 10 to 12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Meanwhile, make the croutons. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread, drizzle with the oil, and sprinkle with paprika, garlic, and salt. Toss to coat and toast until the croutons are golden and crispy, about 5 minutes.
- To serve, divide the croutons among bowls and top with the vegetables. Generously sprinkle with basil and serve.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 340
Keywords: panzanella, salad, bread, tomatoes, summer squash