Savvy home cooks have a few recipes in their wheelhouses to use up fresh bread when it’s slightly past its prime. Croutons, gazpacho, bread pudding and breadcrumbs are just a few common ways to put the ends of a loaf to good use. Another is panzanella, a fresh summer salad with its roots in Tuscan cuisine. In the traditional version, cubes of stale bread are soaked in water, then squeezed dry. Usually, some combination of garden tomatoes and cucumbers, red onions, basil and soft cheese, like mozzarella, are tossed with the bread and everything is liberally dressed with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
We’re big fans of panzanella, and find ourselves eating it throughout the summer, often tossing in olives, peppers, hard boiled eggs, roasted garlic, and other bits and bobs that are hanging around a few days after a trip to the farmers market. This fun spin swaps in Pennsylvania soft pretzels for country bread; the salt from the pretzels absorbs and helps to release even more juices from the tomatoes and cucumbers, and the dense, chewy crumb of the pretzels soaks it all up like a dream. Use the best quality tomatoes you can find, creamy sweet mozzarella and homegrown basil for one of the best summer salads you’ll have this year!
PA Pretzel Panzanella
|Prep Time||Cook Time||Total Time|
|10 min||10 min||20 min|
- 6 soft pretzels
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2-3 large ripe PA tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into 1” pieces
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- Flake salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut pretzels into 1” pieces and toss with olive oil. Spread evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until golden and crunchy, about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon shallot, minced
- Juice of half a lemon
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Combine all ingredients for basil vinaigrette in blender or food processor and blend until smooth, adding more oil 1 teaspoon add a time if needed. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.
- To assemble the salad, spread basil vinaigrette over bottom of serving platter and arrange toasted pretzels, tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves in an even layer over vinaigrette. Top with flake salt and black pepper.
- Photo, GIF and recipe: Dish Works