This Italian peach panzanella is a bread salad with peaches, tomatoes, red onions, basil, mint, burrata, and garlicky ciabatta for a quick summer salad.
One of the many things I love about Italian food is its simplicity. Most Italian dishes don't have a ton of ingredients, allowing each ingredient to shine. A good example is panzanella salads. And just so you know, the word panzanella sounds a lot fancier than it really is — it just means a bread salad.
Panzanella bread salads, native to Tuscany, likely originated with farmers harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil, and tossing them with bread baked earlier in the week. Soaking the stale bread in the tomato juices moistened it enough to pull it apart into hunks for a salad. Life was hard, and nothing was wasted. Not even stale bread.
My twist on this dish adds peaches to the tomatoes, some red onion, and mint. I didn't have any stale bread on hand, so I tossed hunks of ciabatta bread in olive oil and garlic, and toasted them for large garlic croutons. I loosely separated the ball of burrata to add at the end.
This dish comes together quickly, and boasts the flavors of summer. But I make panzanella all year long, with squash in autumn, broccoli in winter, and asparagus in spring. I also make another summer version using grilled eggplant with the tomatoes. The true secret of this dish is to use peak season fruits or vegetables and lots of crispy garlic croutons.
Italian Peach Panzanella Bread Salad
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar, - I used one that's peach flavored
- 1/2 loaf of ciabatta bread, torn in 1 1/2" cubes (about 6 cups)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 4 ripe peaches, pitted, and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 4 cups)
- 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
- 1/4 cup torn basil leaves, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup torn mint leaves, plus more for serving
- 2 handfuls arugula or your favorite lettuce, optional
- 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
- 8 ounce ball burrata cheese,
- Place the red onion in a small bowl with the vinegar, and macerate for 30 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, toss the bread pieces with 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, and salt together to completely coat the bread pieces. Lay out on a baking sheet and broil for 10 minutes until well-browned; turn over and broil for another 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, gently toss together the bread, peaches, tomatoes, basil, mint, and greens (if using).
- Whisk together the sherry vinegar with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Drizzle over the salad.
- Just before serving, add the cheese and a last flourish of mint and basil.