Grandma Menna’s Kitchen: the “panzanella”

Date giugno 24, 2009

Breakfast is universally acknowledged as one of the main meals of the day: milk, coffee, fruit juices, cookies, brioches, and maybe yoghurt, home made jam and, why not, some pizza.

This is nowadays breakfast. In the past, when my grandma was a little child, it was totally different. They used to have panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) for breakfast. I love panzanella, because it’s refreshing, light and good, a summer dish… for lunch or dinner, not for breakfast!

Panzanella was summer breakfast, made with leftover bread. During the winter, they used to have polenta to start the day in a glorious way! It used to be audult people’s breakfast, grandma used to have milk instead – since they had a cow and a goat in the farm. Men who went to work in the fields at dawn made the panzanella in a lunch box and brought it with them in a basket. When breakfast time came, they used to eat the panzanella drinking some home made red wine.

Nowadays, panzanella is a refreshing first course to have in those first summer days.


  • stale Tuscan* bread, 300gr
  • ripe tomatoes, 2
  • Certaldo onion, 1
  • basil, a lot
  • salt
  • extravirgin olive oil
  • white vinegar

* Tuscan bread is made without salt, this is the main characteristic of our bread!

Break the bread into large pieces, put it in a large bowl and soak it with water, without dipping it into the water. They used to make panzanella with leftover home made baked bread: it had a very different and better flavour and took a lot of time to soak up.

Slice thinly the onion and drown it in cold water, to shade its strong taste. We used Certaldo onion, a round, sweet, juicy and light violet onion. Dice the tomatoes.

After 10 minutes, when the bread is soft, squeeze it, crumble it with your hands, put it in a large bowl and flavour with onion, tomato and basil, torn roughly with your hand.

Season with salt and plenty of extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with some white vinegar. In the past, as my grandma says, it used to be real wine vinegar, very good and light, as regards white vinegar. Don’t use the red one, or it will redden the bread! If you desire a very light vinegar, you can use also apple vinegar.

Set aside for half an hour, then it’s ready to be eaten!

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11 Responses to “Grandma Menna’s Kitchen: the “panzanella””

  1. marco said:

    stupenda e profumata con il basilico e la cipolla dolce e croccante…
    mia zia ci mette anche delle acciughe sotto sale a pezzetti…

    grande giulia!


  2. Cookin' Canuck said:

    I really enjoy panzanella salads, particularly on a warm summer’s day. I had no idea that it was once a popular breakfast dish. Beautiful photo!


  3. Giulia said:

    @ Marco: grazie, che piacere che mi fa vederti qui!! ottima l’idea delle acciughe! ciao
    @ Cookin’ Canuck: Grandma surprised me too, when she told me about this peculiar breakfast! ciao!


  4. Mathilde's Cuisine said:

    Never heard about Panzanella as my mom used to cook the traditionnal ‘Tabouleh’ but I love the idea!


  5. French Cooking for Dummies said:

    I’ve never heard of panzanella before but I must say it looks and sounds fantastic :-D


  6. An eco-friendly picnic | Juls' Kitchen said:

    [...] shuffle the cards. The panzanella, the classic Tuscan salad made with stale bread, tomatoes and cucumbers, is proposed here with the [...]

  7. VADIM said:

    really I very liked your dishes, I work at italian restaraunt in Russia, and I often got ideas of you perfect cusine/ respect!!!!


    Juls Risposta:

    Thank you Vadim, thank you so much for your feedback! it’s incredible to know that my recipes are sometimes used in a restaurant in Russia, so cool! If you need tips and ideas, just ask, I’ll be happy to help you!


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    [...] let me clarify one point: panzanella salad, a typical dish of the Tuscan peasant cooking, is made with bread soaked in water. No crunchy [...]

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  10. Artichoke and stale bread cake. Make room in your Easter picnic basket for this! | Juls' Kitchen said:

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