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Autumn panzanella salad

In the first ten months of my new life, I have learned so much. I’ve learned from Francesca and Food Editore how to make a book from scratch, hanging drafts everywhere. I’ve learned that you cannot act as a food photographer – if you are not a professional food photographer – without dying of a broken heart until your client approves a photo. And I’ve learned a lot from my cooking classes. Paradoxically, it is during my cooking classes that I learned the most, when in fact I am supposed to be the one who teaches something, not the one who learns so much.

Autumn panzanella salad

The things I’ve learnt during my cooking classes

The first time I taught a cooking class three years ago, I pretended shamelessly, claiming myself a navigated teacher and hiding my insecurity behind a flood of words. You have to start somewhere, right? I came home exhausted but extremely happy with myself. After three years, I have learnt the seraphic smile telling the world all is good, I have everything under control, even though the clock is fast-flowing and we still need to roll out the pasta.

I’ve learned to fake security when I say yes, the meat is ready, and I would instead slide into the roasted pork sirloin to check whether it is done or not, if it is pinkish and juicy or worse, overcooked and stringy like a slipper. I’ve learnt to appeal to all the saints in heaven when I throw gnocchi or malfatti into the boiling water, keeping my fingers crossed, hoping they will float intact to the surface, and not completely melted. You never know, bad days happen to everyone. I also finally learnt to sit at the table and enjoy the meal without being interrupted by phone calls or e-mails, savouring the pleasure of well-cooked food, different season after season.

Autumn panzanella salad

Autumn Panzanella salad

The most amazing side of the cooking classes, though, is the unusual perspective on your everyday life that students give you. What for you has always been a Tuscan panzanella, the common summer dish you give for granted in its simplicity becomes in their eyes – and consequently, in yours – a versatile salad characterized by the fresh acidity of the vinegar, a tasty background for other ingredients, just like couscous. And from here, a new world opens up for you.

The basic principle is the same as with the summer panzanella: take a piece of stale or day-old bread that no longer gives its best in mopping the sauce in your dish, dip it in cold water and soak it. After about ten minutes, squeeze it with your hands and crumble the bread in a soft and white snowfall. You can use it in panzanellapappa al pomodoro, in a stuffing for a golden roasted chicken or, as in this case, in a heretical Panzanella salad, or better, a Tuscan couscous. I do not know how to define it properly.

I used the first autumn vegetables with some fresh herbs from the garden, thyme, and mint to make an Autumn Panzanella salad.

You can make an autumn panzanella salad with pan-fried butternut squash and carrots, a handful of meaty olives, and caramelized red onions to add a sweet and sour touch. When it comes to dressing the salad, opt for a lighter apple cider vinegar that won’t steal the show to freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil, olio nuovo, that will release all its peppery aromas when it will get in contact with the hot vegetables.

Autumn panzanella salad

An autumn panzanella salad with butternut squash, carrots, olives, and caramelised onions, dressed with apple cider vinegar and freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil.
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Main dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine Tuscany
Servings 2 people


  • 200 grams stale country bread
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ Delica squash or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cubed
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 3 tablespoons black olives, pitted
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olio nuovo, freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
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  • Slice the stale bread into thick slices and soak them in a bowl of cold water.
  • Pour 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil into a small frying pan, add the finely sliced onions, season with a pinch of salt, and stew them over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until softened. Pour in one tablespoon of red wine vinegar and reduce, about 3 minutes. The onions will be now nicely caramelized.
  • Pour 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil into a large frying pan, add the cubed squash and carrots, the fresh herbs, and season with a generous pinch of salt.
  • Brown the vegetables for about 20 minutes, until they are soft inside and golden brown on the outside.
  • In the meantime, squeeze the bread to remove any excess water and crumble it with your hands into a large bowl.
  • Add the vegetables to the crumbled bread along with the olives, season with a drizzle of olio nuovo, apple cider vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Mix the vegetables with your hands to distribute the dressing evenly. Set aside for at least half an hour before eating.
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More recipes with stale bread from the blog archive

  • Pappa al pomodoro. I have reluctantly abandoned the tomato purée, which had freed the pappa al pomodoro from the summer constraint, in favour of ripe Florentine ribbed tomatoes, peeled and crushed with my hands. Obviously in winter, whenever I experience a physical need for my dose of pappa al pomodoro, I would do with a jar of good quality peeled tomatoes (or those we made during summer), and you can do the same when you can’t put your hands on good sun-ripened tomatoes.
  • Panzanella. In my family, we make the classic panzanella, without exception. But then friends arrive, each wanting a different version. Some want a panzanella without onion. Others prefer it without cucumber. Then there are those who, like Tommaso, love it with tuna and capers. Panzanella is one of those dishes that invariably bend to the mood of the day and what’s on hand in the garden or pantry.

Autumn panzanella salad

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. I can only imagine the fun and learning experience in giving cooking class. Well I’ve taught a couple of photography workshops and love that too so in a way it might be somewhat similar. Just a different topic…;) love the look of this couscous! Wish I could join one of your classes!!

  2. Some great lessons in this post, thanks for sharing your wisdom and wise words! And I love how original this dish is, sweet&sour couscous sounds both interesting and very delicious:) Hope you’ll have a great weekend!

  3. I think you’ve inspired me to give my not-so-great pilaf attempt last weekend another try, only with these ingredients and pilaf mix instead of the bread. Lovely, lovely post…mouth-watering, in fact.

  4. A perfect lunch. I have some stale saltless bread I bought at the farmersmarket in England, it’s very Tuscan without the salt and I think the lade who was baking the bread was Italian. Perfecto!

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