Panzanella is a cold salad, full of summer flavors. It originated in Florence and had conquered all of Tuscany by the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is a rustic dish with a peasant birthright. In the past panzanella was made with basic ingredients such as crusty, day-old bread, tomatoes, onions and fresh basil tossed with a vinaigrette dressing. It is an example of how people did not waste any food….there was not a lot! Nowadays there are many richer variations with the addition of other ingredients. My recipe includes other vegetables and tuna, it is a Mamma Mia! Diet version. Actually, I tried this one in Viareggio in one of the outdoor restaurants along the beautiful beach and loved it. I made it to share with you as soon as I returned home.
It is very easy and quick to prepare. It should rest in the fridge for a while to allow all the flavors to mingle. If you happen to visit either Tuscany or Umbria in August, you may very well encounter some festivals dedicated to this delicious dish.
Panzanella (Tuscan Bread and Tomato Salad)
200 g (7 oz) Tuscan bread, or whole grain bread cut into small pieces
3 Romano tomatoes, cut into cubes
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 red onion, finely sliced
120 g (4 oz) canned tuna in olive oil
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoon water
12 fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a big bowl place the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and season with salt and pepper. Add bread, vinegar and water. Toss all the ingredients together. The bread should be wet but not soggy. Break it up with a fork. Add tuna and mix well. Taste and add more salt, pepper and vinegar, if necessary. Tear in basil and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve cold.
Note: Since the recipe calls for tuna canned in olive oil, no other oil is needed. If you use tuna canned in water, it is recommended to add 2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. You can substitute Tuscan bread with other hearty Italian breads, such as a Pugliese loaf.
Paola Lovisetti Scamihorn is an Italian pharmacist, researcher and food writer. Cooking, eating healthy food and staying active have always been her life-long passions. She has a cooking blog “Passion and Cooking,” and contributes to several international magazines. She has previously published in Italy Love is Eating, focusing on Italian culinary culture.
Paola Palestini is a biochemistry professor at the Medical School of the University Milano-Bicocca, Italy. Recently, Paola has been actively involved in the promotion of the principles of a healthy diet through conferences and in collaboration with several magazines. She is the author of seventy-six scientific articles published in international journals.
Learn more about The Mamma Mia! Diet at www.mammamiadiet.com.