November  3, 1998

Panzanella is a salad made with bread and tomatoes and number of other ingredients.  It is made all over Tuscany and is made in a particular way....otherwise it is not Panzanella.

This month's contribution to Faux Pas is from the November-December 1998  issue of CUISINE.  What's  wrong with their salad.  Everything!  The ingredients are not what is, or ever have been, used in a classical Panzanella, nor is the technique used to make the salad correct.  A person eating this tomato based salad, who had never had the original Tuscan version, would be ill treated and ill informed.

The biggest gaff Cuisine makes is toasting the bread after it has been cut into cubes.  Two misleading statements in one instruction (Photo 1 in the article, Page 21)  The bread should neither be toasted nor cubed. The addition of toasted pine nuts is incorrect as is the addition of capers, garlic, anchovy, chicken broth, red and yellow peppers, mozzarella cheese and Kalamata olives.  The only  ingredients Cuisine uses in this salad which are supposed to be there are tomatoes, onions, olive oil, vinegar and bread.

Is this salad any good?  Since we have chosen not to make it, we cannot say that it might not be a good salad.  The ingredients, per se, are tasty.  We probably would not have used any chicken broth, but the rest sound plausible in a salad.  Regardless,  it is not Panzanella.  It might be called Insalata Panzanella Americana.

What is authentic Panzanella and how is it made?  Here are the proper ingredients and a preparation taken from "La Toscana in Cucina, le fondamentali gesto per gesto", by Arnoldo Mondatori, Ed. Verona Italy, 1993 ISBN # 88-04-36-928-0.  The translation below is by The Artisan staff.



Slice the bread and put it into a shallow dish.  cover it with water and leave for 10 minutes.  At the end of this time, squeeze the water from the bread and crumble it by rolling it between the palms of you hands.  Pluck the bread into pieces to fluff it a bit.   Put it in to a salad bowl large enough to hold all of the ingredients. 

Cut the cucumber and the onions into thin slices.  Cut the tomatoes into wedges.  Add the cucumbers, onions and 3/4 of the tomatoes to the bread.

Season all of this with most of the basil, salt and pepper, and olive oil.  Mix the salad gently, preferably by hand,  so as not to bread up the vegetables, or to pack them too tightly.   Cover and place in the refrigerator until just before the time to serve the Panzanella. 

At the last moment,  add the vinegar and a bit more olive oil.  Mix gently again, then garnish with the remaining basil leaves and tomato wedges.  Serve.


How do we know that this Italian recipe is authentic?  Our oldest and best  friends in Italy live in Siena.  Their family has been there for about 350 years.  We watched Maria Grazia as she prepared Panzanella for us.  It was delicious!

Last updated on: 06/03/99 12:51:04 AM