Award Winning Simple Panzanella Salad

I love any opportunity to talk about studying abroad in Rome, so any favorite dishes I can recreate from my time there are a great trojan horse for story time. That’s why I love to make this super simple panzanella salad-


  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (or more) olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 cups French/Italian bread chopped in 1 inch cubes


  1. Slice cucumber and chop slices in half to make bite size quarter slices
  2. Chop half of a red onion into small half inch slices. Everything should be bite size, without needing a knife
  3. Follow the same step with the basil.
  4. Slice tomato in half and core to avoid excess liquid. Continue slicing for bite size pieces (have I hit my limit of saying bite size?)
  5. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes. If bread is going stale this is a great excuse to make this salad! It can help soak up the moisture.
  6. Add all chopped ingredients into a large mixing or salad bowl
  7. Pour on olive oil while stirring and mixing the salad so all pieces are slightly covered.
  8. Do the same with the balsamic vinegar. Look for the bread to get a little soggy with oil and vinegar- so good!

Panzanella at a Potluck

Panzanella is the popular Italian summer salad, that takes advantage of all these fresh ingredients being in season. There are a lot of variations on this recipe, but I always come back to the classic.

A week into starting my new job, I heard there was an end of summer potluck and competition. My first thought was my famous puppy chow, but I didn’t want to go up against real bakers in the dessert category.

Thinking the appetizer category would be an overlooked category, I signed myself and my panzanella up.

The thing to know about Minnesota at the end of August, is that the only thing people think or talk about is the Minnesota State Fair. This made me think that while people could be surprised to see a salad at a potluck, they would gladly welcome it or at least try it to feel better about themselves.

The bread soaked up the balsamic and olive oil in the best way, so most people didn’t know that it was even bread. As a result, I found myself standing by my dish explaining it, and meeting all of my new coworkers in the process. Coming from a 12 person company, I couldn’t wait to meet everyone or take part in more fun events.

I had forgotten about the element of the competition until the organizer called to make an announcement. Starting with the appetizer category, she said this award is going to our newest team member, who is in her first week!

My name was called, and I was so excited I made a speech that I’m not sure anyone asked for.

I hope you try out this award-winning salad, and that it gives you a taste of the Italians’ joyous, relaxed, and in the moment life.

2017 So Long Summer Cook-Off Winners

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