Panzanella: the Italian dish that tastes like summer

Panzanella can be consider the Italian dish that tastes like summer.

In fact, it is a poor dish of Tuscan cuisine of peasant origin. Like any dish of poor cuisine, it consists of recycled ingredients such as stale bread and simple food taken from the garden. A simple, delicate but extremely tasty dish, seasoned with oil and salt. There are various versions of the panzanella. In fact, each region has created its own version of it, from Lazio with one recipe, to Umbria with another. The saying “Country you go, custom you find”, also applies to the panzanella. Let’s find out more about this summer dish, fresh and tasty.

Panzanella: a bit of history

The origins of the panzanella are very ancient. In fact, the great poet Boccaccio probably mentions it by calling it “pan mollo” (pan lavato). The panzanella is also called “pan mollo” or “pansanella“. According to some, the birth of this dish derives from the need to wet old bread and season it with vegetables from the garden. For others, however, it was born on fishing boats, where sailors prepared a quick meal by wetting hard bread with sea water.

The origin of the name panzanella is also widely discussed. According to some, in fact, it derives from the words “bread” and “zanella”, that is the soup tureen; for others it derives from the word “panzana” which means jelly. In the sixteenth century, Bronzino, a painter of the Medici court, sang the praises of the panzanella in his poem “In praise of the onions“:

“Chi vuol trapassar sopra le stelle

en’tinga il pane e mangi a tirapelle

un’insalata di cipolla trita

colla porcellanetta e citriuoli

vince ogni altro piacer di questa vita

considerate un po’ s’aggiungessi

bassilico e ruchetta”. 

As we said before, panzanella is a recovery dish, created to not waste stale bread. In fact, there are many recipes in which hard bread becomes the main protagonist: pappa col pomodoro, ribollita, bread soup, casentino soup.

Panzanella: tastes and regions

Based on the regions of Italy, as mentioned above, the recipe changes.

For example, in Tuscany and Lazio bread is left to soak in water and then wrung out, chopped and mixed with the other elements. In Umbria and Marche, however, the slices of bread are wet, they are not crumbled but accompany the other ingredients such as a bruschetta. The classic basis of the recipe involves the use of: stale bread, onion, basil, cucumber, tomato, olive oil, vinegar, salt and in some cases even tuna and egg.

It must be said that the recipe also has many variations based on personal taste: there are those who add carrots, corn, fennel, cheeses, pickles and legumes…

In Siena basil dominates the dish as it was considered the real herb, the herb of the lords. Not surprisingly, in the Siena area, there was the “panzanella of the mistress” and “the servant”: the first with a lot of oil, the second with a lot of vinegar.

Instead, in Florence they add thyme, “pepolino“, and also celery. In Livorno they add an anchovy, while in Viareggio they call it the “prisoner’s soup” and add tuna and pickles. In Sicily the “panzaneddra” was widespread thanks to the contribution of Duke Alfio Panzanella.

However, panzanella remains a truly delicious and simple dish to prepare. Convenient for summer picnics or a light lunch in the office. It is very fresh and can be considered a single dish. Below we present our recipe for panzanella.

Panzanella: the recipe


4 Slices of stale bread

4 Ripe tomatoes

1 Spring onion

Extra virgin olive oil





Preparing time 10 min

Serves 4



Soften the slices of stale bread for a few days in water.

Cut the spring onion into very thin slices. I recommend leaving it in cold salted water for a few hours, so that it loses some of its strong flavor.

Season the chopped tomato with oil, vinegar, chopped basil, salt and pepper.

Squeeze the bread very well and in a serving dish mix it with all the other ingredients.

Enjoy your panzanella!


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