Traditionally prepared with an oil and vinegar dressing, my Tomato Panzanella Salad is prepared with the ripest and freshest tomatoes you can get your hands on, lots of toasted, hand-torn bread, seasonings, and mayonnaise. This salad is so simple, yet so delicious!
Oh, Tomato Panzanella Salad, why do you taste so good? I swear, Dear Reader, this is one of those dishes that I cannot stop eating once I get a taste of that first bite. The tomatoes are seasoned with salt and pepper and allowed to sit and hang out while you prepare the bread. The salt will draw out some of the moisture and gently break down some of the tomato pieces. This makes them a little soft and soupy, but that’s exactly what you want so that the toasted, crusty bread can soak up those juices.
Here’s the thing about the bread though – it will remain toasty and crispy in the mayonnaise and tomato juice mixture for quite some time. That’s only if you prepare it properly though, so pay close attention when you get to that part of the recipe.
You can jazz up this salad by adding a few things to it, but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. The goal here is to taste the summer freshness of those locally grown tomatoes. But, if you are so inclined, you might want to consider adding some finely sliced red onion, some bright, green, crunchy lettuce, or even some cubed mozzarella cheese. There’s no rule stating that you can’t add in whatever you want. My only rule is that the tomatoes must be the best you can find!
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LET’S CALL IT A PACKWOOD THING!
So, I added mayonnaise. Yes, I did! Almost every dish prepared with summer fresh tomatoes has mayonnaise as a part of it. I’m one of those people who thinks that a sliced tomato with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper is one of the best things one can eat. And, one of my favourite summer-time lunches is a couple of plain rice cakes with a good smear of mayonnaise. Top those with those salt and pepper-seasoned sliced tomatoes and I’m good to go! It really doesn’t get any better!
When I was thinking about putting together a Tomato Panzanella Salad, I couldn’t help but think of my mom and her father. They were the only two people I knew who loved to eat tomatoes as much as I do. I have seen them both make a meal out of canned whole tomatoes that have been topped with sugar and milk. They would cut the tomatoes with the back of their spoon and pile chunks of it onto buttered, homemade, fresh bread. They loved it! I love it! It’s just one of those things that sounds like it won’t be good at all, but it’s absolutely delicious!
I’m calling it a Packwood thing because my mom’s maiden name was Packwood before she married my dad. It was her and my grandfather who inspired the addition of mayonnaise to this salad to give it that white-ish colour. I remembered those bowls of canned tomatoes with sugar and milk they both introduced me to so many years ago, and I couldn’t resist. As it turns out, their influence wasn’t wrong – it’s wonderfully luscious and delectable!
HOME-GROWN OR LOCALLY SOURCED TOMATOES
If you’re thinking about making Tomato Panzanella Salad, you must have some summer fresh tomatoes on hand, right? The whole concept of a simple recipe like this is about combining fresh tomatoes with a few basic ingredients. I have used a mixture of roma and beefsteak tomatoes, however, any tomato will do, but I think the best tomatoes are the ones with more meatiness.
When a tomato is described as being meatier, it simply means that the ratio of tomato flesh to the seeds and pulp mixture is higher. A good example of this is the beefsteak tomato. They are quite large and the walls of the tomato are thick and sturdy. They’re most often found on sandwiches for this reason.
Personally, I prefer the roma tomato. In my opinion, this variety has the best flavour, and most certainly, the best colour. A perfectly ripe roma tomato has a deep red colour and just pops in contrast to other recipe ingredients. I use the roma tomato almost exclusively in my recipes. Tomatoes on the vine are perfect for this recipe too!
Lord Byron’s Notes
Let’s pretend it’s the middle of winter and you can’t get your hands on any locally grown, summer-fresh tomatoes. Don’t fret! You can make this salad with canned tomatoes! It would be best if you used homemade canned diced tomatoes, but if you don’t have those, you can use canned tomatoes from your local grocery store. Be sure to read the next section on buying store-bought, canned tomatoes first!
MY RULES FOR CANNED STORE-BOUGHT TOMATOES
Canned tomatoes can be found anywhere and they come in so many shapes, sizes, and textures. Here are my steadfast rules for buying canned tomatoes. I apologize if you’ve read this on my blog before, but it’s worth repeating.
First, if you need tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, buy them in a glass jar. You can see what you’re buying. The colour should be bright and vivid; the sauce/tomatoes should look fresh and cohesive. If there are seeds or pieces of tomato skin, move on to another brand.
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Second, if you need chopped or diced tomatoes, always buy whole tomatoes. When produce companies can the tomatoes, the best tomatoes are packed in cans marked “whole.” The blemished, not-so-perfect tomatoes, are crushed, chopped, or pureed and sold as such. I would rather buy canned whole tomatoes (they’re always the same price!) and spend the extra two minutes chopping them myself so that I know I’m getting really good and really ripe tomatoes.
If you have time, make your own canned diced tomatoes. That way, you can be assured that there are no “bad” tomatoes, there will be no skin, and they’re already chopped and ready to go. Plus, canning tomatoes in the summertime, means you lock in that fresh, locally grown, tomato taste.
Lord Byron’s Notes
If you are using store-bought canned tomatoes for this recipe, buy the whole canned tomatoes and chop them yourself. Most canned tomatoes will have salt already, so you might not want to add any additional salt to the tomato prep part of this recipe. The best bet is to buy low-sodium or salt-free canned whole tomatoes.
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO PREPARE THIS RECIPE
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this recipe. For exact amounts and measurements, refer to the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
- Tomatoes – You can use any garden-fresh tomato in this recipe, like roma, beefsteak, or any other meaty tomato.
- Salt & Ground Black Pepper
- Baguette – Any good crusty bread will do, but a baguette has a lot of crust-to-bread ratio and works perfectly! If your bread is day-old or stale, even better!!!
- Olive Oil – Use good olive oil, one that you can dip your finger into and like the taste of all on its own.
- Mayonnaise – Low fat, regular, avocado oil-based, etc., it’s all good. Use your favourite brand. It has to be mayo though – don’t try to use Miracle Whip or Salad Dressing in this recipe!
- Garlic Powder – Use garlic powder and not granulated garlic. There’s a big difference in the taste!
- Onion Powder
- Lemon Juice – You can use freshly squeezed lemon juice or bottled lemon juice in this recipe.
- Parsley – Finely chopped fresh parsley for freshness and garnish.
- Fresh Basil – For garnish.
HOW TO MAKE TOMATO PANZANELLA SALAD
Wash your tomatoes and pat them dry. Chop the tomatoes into half-inch chunks. Transfer the chopped tomatoes to a bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Gently toss to combine and pour the seasoned tomatoes into a fine-mesh colander or sieve. Set the colander aside on a plate to catch the draining tomato juice. Don’t push any of the seeds or juice out of the tomatoes!
Next, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. While your oven heats, tear the baguette into one-inch pieces. Place those into a bowl. Drizzle over two tablespoons of olive oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Toss well to ensure the bread pieces are well coated with olive oil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Once the oven is fully heated, place the bread in the oven and toast for 5 minutes, or until the bread has browned and is crunchy. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and chopped parsley. Add the tomatoes and toss well to combine. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Finally, add the toasted bread. Toss to combine and serve immediately. Garnish with more ground black pepper, if desired, chopped parsley, and fresh basil leaves.
I know that this might seem a little carby, but there are so many of us who will enjoy a bowl of pasta with a piece of garlic bread, right? So, I’m suggesting that you serve Tomato Panzanella Salad with spaghetti! We have spaghetti for dinner every Sunday night, so it is usually the first type of pasta I think of. If you’re worried about tomato overload, switch up the tomato sauce in your pasta with my homemade pesto sauce, or this very easy and creamy buttermilk pasta sauce!
If you are looking for something with more protein as a main to this salad, I can’t think of anything more delicious or better than my roasted chicken! It’s classic, it’s easy, and it’s damn near perfect with everything! A simple fish dish would be nice too. Any type of white fish pairs very well with tomatoes. I have this garlicky, herb-baked fish that has mayo in the topping, so it would be wonderful with this fresh tomato salad!
MAKING AHEAD? NOT SO FAST!
I know that making recipes ahead of time is a game-changer and a time-saver for some, but certain recipes do not lend themselves to being made ahead. But, just because a dish can’t be entirely made ahead of time, doesn’t mean that the prep work can’t be done already! In the case of Tomato Panzanella Salad, it might go without saying that you wouldn’t want to toss toasted, crusty bread with a wet mixture of tomatoes and mayonnaise too far in advance. Needless to say, that bread won’t be crusty for too long!
But, you can make everything ahead and just not mix it all together. Go ahead and toast up the bread. Allow it to fully cool on the pan and allow your oven to cool down too. Store the bread in your oven on the pan it was baked on; it should also be in a single layer. Close the door, but leave it open a bit. Just stick the handle of a wooden spoon between the oven and the door right in the top corner. Airflow is important to keeping crusty things crusty!
The tomato and mayo mixture can be prepared completely and stored in a food-safe container. Pop it in the fridge and it will keep safely there for a day or two. Remove it from the fridge for about twenty minutes or so before you want to serve it. Just before serving toss the tomato mixture with the bread, plate, and garnish accordingly. Enjoy!
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Tomato Panzanella Salad
- 4 large tomatoes, use beefsteak or roma tomatoes
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 175 grams bread, use crusty bread like a baguette
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
- fresh basil, for garnish
- Wash your tomatoes and pat them dry. Chop the tomatoes into half-inch chunks. Transfer the chopped tomatoes to a bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Gently toss to combine and pour the seasoned tomatoes into a fine-mesh colander or sieve. Set the colander aside on a plate to catch the draining tomato juice. Don’t push any of the seeds or juice out of the tomatoes!
- Next, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
- Tear the baguette into one-inch pieces. Place those into a bowl. Drizzle over two tablespoons of olive oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Toss well to ensure the bread pieces are well coated with olive oil.
- Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Once the oven is fully heated, place the bread in the oven and toast for 5 minutes, or until the bread has browned and is crunchy. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and chopped parsley.
- Add the tomatoes and toss well to combine.
- Taste and season with more salt if needed.
- Finally, add in the toasted bread. Toss to combine and serve immediately. Garnish with more ground black pepper, if desired, chopped parsley, and fresh basil leaves.
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