Ingredients for 4 persons:
- about 1 lb of nearly stale good homemade bread (or if purchasing, Italian or French-style breads)
- 4 ripe tomatopes
- 6 leaves of basil
- 1 large purple onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 medium-sized cucumber
- extra-virgin olive oil (accept no substitutes and get the BEST you can)
- salt, pepper
- wine vinegar
- optional: variety of salads (but not iceberg lettuce!)
Panzanella is a keynote dish of cucina genuina (“genuine cooking”, ie, traditional cuisine of homegrown ingredients), for bread is sacred in rural culture and never thrown out, always used in some way. Read about rural bread lore.
Here is how Peppa makes her panzanella piatto dei poveri (“poor man’s dish” and variations on the theme are made throughout central Italy).
Soak the bread in water till it softens, then squeeze all of the water out. Add bread to a bowl. Cut all the vegetables into small pieces and then add to the bowl. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper, vinegar and keep in a cool place (though not refrigerator) until served.
Best NOT prepared ahead and refrigerated.
Variations: In the Lazio region, tomatoes and onions are omitted and capers, garlic, anchovies and parsley are pulverized together with mortar and pestle.
Hot red pepper is added.