Marinated Mozzarella Panzanella is a drool-worthy dish to make with ripe tomatoes in late summer. Creamy mozzarella, crunchy bread cubes, fresh basil, and tangy balsamic combine in this easy salad that’s perfect to round out family dinner or impress your friends!
Let’s be honest: it’s easy to take tomatoes for granted.
At least a few varieties, like Romas, are available year-round. Then there’s the dizzying array of canned tomatoes. Diced, crushed, whole peeled, paste, sauce … it can get a little overwhelming.
The danger, of course, is that all this abundance makes it harder to appreciate the genuine article: a ripe, juicy, just-off-the-vine tomato, harvested in late summer. Just in time to be part of your next meal!
So it’s August, and those cherubic tomatoes are literally everywhere. Now what are you supposed to do with them all!?
There’s the classic Caprese. A tomato cucumber stand-by. Plain slices with a sprinkle of salt. And now, a new staple for your late summer repertoire: Panzanella.
What Is Panzanella?
Traditional Panzanella is a Tuscan chopped salad of tomatoes and onions that’s popular in summer. What makes it stand out? The inclusion of crunchy bread.
Presumably this originated with resourceful Italian grandmothers trying to put yesterday’s bread to good use. And don’t all the best recipes begin that way, after all?
A traditional Panzanella, like this classic from Ina Garten, might include cucumbers, other veggies and herbs, and be dressed with olive oil and vinegar.
That’s pretty stellar in its own right. But you know what makes everything next level?
How To Make a Marinated Mozzarella Panzanella
This dish is fantastic to round out any old dinner, but where it really shines is for casual hosting. It’s gorgeous, impressive, and just a little unexpected.
And, clearly, delicious.
Here’s how to make it:
- First you’ll need some little balls of fresh mozzarella. Let them swim for at least an hour in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil (photo 1). You can do this further in advance if you like – another reason this is easy for entertaining. Hands-off prep work = win.
- We’re gonna fake the perfectly dated bread just a little bit. Cut up some crusty bread into cubes. You want about 2 cups of cubes, up to 3. Toss them in a skillet with a little olive oil and salt, and let them get nice and brown (photo 2).
- When you’re ready to serve, cut up the other star ingredients: lots of tomatoes, a little red onion (photo 3).
- Now, combine it all – tomatoes, mozzarella, bread cubes. Be sure not to transfer all the olive oil from the mozzarella into the salad. You just want a couple spoonfuls of it so the salad is dressed, not drowning. Add more basil. Always more basil (photo 4).
Panzanella Tips and Tricks
Once you combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, and bread, you can let the salad sit for 30 minutes or so if you want, and the flavors will only get better.
DEFINITELY drizzle a little balsamic glaze over the whole thing right before serving. The tangy sweetness is the perfect finishing touch, plus it looks gorgeous.
I mean, really, who’s diving in with me??
This taste best the day it’s made, however. We’ve tried storing leftovers in the fridge, and the texture contrast just isn’t quite right after day 1.
More Delicious Italian-Inspired Dishes
If you like this recipe, you might also enjoy a simple Pesto Pasta with Peas or Italian Cheesy Tortellini Pasta Salad. Or serve the Panzanella with Bruschetta or Tuscan Chicken, or a Tuscan White Bean Skillet, plus an easy Arugula Salad for a complete and impressive meal. And invite me over!
If you make this Panzanella or any other recipe from Nourish and Fete, please rate it and leave a comment below. I love hearing from you, and other readers will benefit from your experience!
Marinated Mozzarella Panzanella
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup basil leaves divided
- 16 ounces mozzarella balls ciliegine or cherry-size, drained
- half of a small baguette or loaf of crusty bread cut into 1-inch cubes (2-3 cups)
- 2 pounds tomatoes quartered
- 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
- For Serving: balsamic glaze
- To marinate the mozzarella, combine 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, a few turns of black pepper, red pepper flakes, and a few basil leaves in a medium bowl. Stir well, then add mozzarella. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, or in the fridge for up to 1 day.
- Meanwhile, prep the bread. Warm remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add the cubed bread and a sprinkle of salt. Cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for about 15 minutes, until the cubes are nicely browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When ready to serve, place tomatoes and red onion in a large serving bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mozzarella and 1-2 tablespoons of the marinade to the bowl with the tomatoes. Roughly chop the remaining basil leaves, and add those to the bowl, along with the bread. Toss and season with another pinch of salt and black pepper, if desired.
- Serve immediately, or let the salad sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Enjoy!
Method adapted from Ina Garten’s wonderful classic Panzanella.