This Italian Peach Panzanella Bread Salad recipe is the ultimate summer salad. Unlike the original Tuscan recipe, which involves soaking stale bread, this version is made with toasted ciabatta, which is tossed with heirloom tomatoes, peaches, basil, olives and capers. Together with bold vinaigrette this fresh and flavourful summer salad is the perfect appetiser or side dish for a barbecue or light lunch on a warm summer day.
What is a bread salad?
Italian bread salad, called “Panzanella” traditionally features cubes of stale bread, ripe tomatoes, onion, vinegar, and olive oil. Throughout Italy, there are endless variations of this salad, with one thing remaining unchanged: day-old country bread. Which is then soaked in water and squeezed dry before being tossed with a range of market-fresh produce; primarily ripe and juicy summer tomatoes. It’s of course a great way to use up stake bread, but by no means has to be made this way. In this non-conventional version, the bread is toasted and it’s enhanced with some bold and briny flavours. The result: simply delicious.
Tips for the best panzanella salad
Dry and toast your bread
I find that the best kind of bread for this salad is sourdough. We want something with a chewy center and a good crust that let it withstand the dressing without falling apart and getting too soggy. I use rustic ciabatta with a good crisp crust (end parts are great in this salad).
Use ripe tomatoes
I love using heirloom tomatoes for this salad (when in season, you can get them in a variety of colours which makes this salad even more appealing). Look for plump and heavy tomatoes that are still somewhat firm and free of blemishes or bruises. If you choose to use a mix of heirloom cherry tomatoes, be sure to cut the them in half for this recipe. Whichever type you use, in season, ripe tomatoes will give you the most flavour!
Salt the tomatoes first
This intensifies the rich, sweet flavour of the tomatoes. It’s best to start this process while the bread is toasting in the oven. You can also use the juices extracted from the tomatoes and add it to the dressing if you like (as I do in my Panzanella with Steak recipe).
A traditional panzanella recipe will call for a very basic dressing made of extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. The dressing in this bread salad recipe is made with sherry vinegar which gives it a unique and complex flavour, which is further complimented with the addition of shallots, olives and capers. If you decide to go the basic route, I recommend adding a little bit of garlic and smidgen of Dijon.
How to adapt this Peach Panzanella Salad
This bread salad is super versatile! So feel free to change things up and make it to your very own liking. Here are a few ideas:
- Replace peaches for nectarines, or replace them with more tomato
- Try using a mix of tomato types, such as heirlooms and cherry tomatoes.
- Stir in a little minced garlic
- Trade out sherry vinegar for red wine vinegar and add a little Dijon mustard to the dressing
- Add chickpeas for some plant-based protein
- Toss in some mini fresh mozzarella balls
- Add a spoonful of homemade basil pesto to the dressing
- Try adding some fresh corn kernels, either raw or grill the corn on the cob and add then cut away the kernels and add them to the salad
Looking for other summer salad recipe ideas?
Try one of these favourites:
- Zucchini Salad with Chickpeas, Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs
- Tomato Nectarine Salad with Feta
- Mediterranean Lentil Salad
- Blueberry Spinach Salad with Feta
- Green Bean Tomato Salad
Panzenella Salad with Peaches
- 250 g ciabatta (or rustic sourdough bread), cubed or torn into pieces
- 600 g mixed heritage tomatoes, cut into small wedges or cubes
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons capers, coarsely chopped
- 35 g Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (about 15 olives)
- 2 peaches, thinly sliced
- 1 generous handful of basil, torn or slivered
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-assisted (400°F / 200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the bread cubes on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Using your hands, toss until evenly coated; drizzling more olive oil if needed. Spread in an even layer and bake on the middle rack of the hot oven until golden and crisp, tossing halfway through (15-20 minutes). Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place a large colander over a bowl. Place the tomatoes in the colander, sprinkle with salt and toss gently. Set aside for minimum 10 minutes. This will draw out some of the excess juices from the tomatoes.
In the bottom of a large serving bowl, combine the olive oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Add the shallots, olives, capers, tomatoes, peaches and crispy bread cubes and toss until coated. Add the basil leaves and toss again.
Serve and enjoy!
- I use fresh (or day old) ciabatta for this recipe. If using stake bread, you will need to reduce the baking time, depending on how dry the bread already is.
- Sherry vinegar is a has a unique and complex taste that is delicately sweet and nutty. It's made from the Spanish fortified wine (sherry), and has a slightly softer acidic bite to it than red or white wine vinegar. If you don’t have sherry vinegar on hand, you can use a quality red wine vinegar in it’s place.
- If you are looking for more ways to use sherry vinegar, try my Spanish potato salad recipe.
For a relaxing atmosphere in the kitchen I recommend my personal Elle Republic: Chilled Out Kitchen Tunes Playlist on Spotify.
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