Recipe: Panzanella – Great Italian antipasti (Very Easy)
My love of all things Italian (well, nearly all) was nurtured after me and my horse lived with an Italian family for two summers. But I have been lucky enough to have travelled by car through Europe and to Italy quite a few times. Lake Garda and Lucca are two of my favourite places, the latter especially.
Many a fabulous lunch with good friends has been eaten in the sunshine, around the pool discreetly sunk in the middle of an old olive grove, at our favourite ancient farmhouse that we all rented outside Lucca.
We all took turns seeing what wonderful concoctions we could make, using the great local ingredients from around us.
My favourite to put together was Panzanella, basically Italian peasant food (i.e. whatever was left in your cupboard and cold store) – mine consisting of ripe chopped tomatoes, red onions, yellow peppers etc. All washed down with very cold, local white wine, lots of it in fact.
I confess that lunch lasted a couple of hours at least, then most of us had a sleep on the sun-chairs, followed by a gentle swim or splash around for the rest of the afternoon. Great memories.
Enjoy your Panzanella!
This can be a wonderful Summer vegetarian dish, or with the addition of parma ham and various salamis and chopped gherkins it can be a meal in itself. The dressing and bits of the recipe came from Ross Burden, but the rest just evolved, particularly the 'crunchy croutons' which just seemed to make it more fun.
- 2 loves Ciabatta bread – cut into 5mm chunks
- 2 tbsp good olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 12 ripe plum tomatoes
- 3 yellow peppers
- ½ cucumber
- 2 large garlic cloves – crushed
- 6 anchovy fillets – finely diced
- 15gm fresh basil leaves
- 1 dried red chilli, seeded & crumbled
- 3 tbsp Sherry or Balsamic vinegar
- 170ml good olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- A mixture of Parma Ham, mixed salamis and pepperoni sausage – Approx 300g.
- A tablespoon of chopped gherkins.
- Chop tomatoes, peppers and cucumber into 1cm chunks.
- Put half the ciabatta bread into a large bowl and sprinkle with enough water to moisten it (but not to make it soggy).
- Mix in all the vegetables including the onion with the soggy bread.
- To make the dressing, grind the garlic, anchovies, basil and chilli to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Add vinegar, then oil and mix well. Season.
- Pour over the salad mix, then chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Pour 2 tbsp olive oil over remaining chunks of ciabatta – mix well – then place into frying pan and stir well over medium heat until golden (about 4 – 5 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper.
- This is such a colourful dish that I love to serve it on a big white platter, with the crunchy ciabatta croutons sprinkled on top, finished off with a scattering of basil leaves.
- If I use the mixed Italian meats, I pile the Panzanella into the middle of the platter and the meats around the edge and scatter the gherkins . Drizzle with the dressing. You can also make it bigger by adding cooked artichoke hearts and olives. (Just typing this recipe out is making me hungry, with the memories of eating it around the pool in Italy!)