A few years ago, my sister and I were walking out of a spa visit in Harvard Square when we happened upon a farmer’s market. We both oohed and aahed over the tomatoes and other wonderful items on display, and she suggested that I put together some of the items to make a panzanella.

Panzanella???, I responded. She then went on to explain that it’s a bread salad that can be used to showcase some of the wonderful seasonal items you can get during the summertime. Of course, with kiddos that love bread, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese, this is a great dish all year ’round. You can use this as a light entrée or as a side dish, and it’s easy enough to make in bulk to have as a side for parties. It’s also easily scalable; if you don’t want a lot, just get a smaller bread and half everything else (one pint of cherry tomatoes instead of a quart, 1/2 lb of mozzarella instead of a full pound, etc.).

Note also that you can substitute chopped tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes and cubed mozzarella cheese for the mozzarella pearls; I use them because they’re time-savers. For the cherry tomatoes, I strongly recommend either doing this when they’re in season or getting some of the NatureSweet ones; flavorless cherry tomatoes do nothing but add color to the dish, so you want ones with flavor.

Given that the flavors here all pretty much stand on their own, also make sure that you’re using an olive oil that you really LIKE. We tend to use Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, if that’s any help.


OM NOM all year long, but especially in the summertime!

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 0! None! Zilch! (yeay)

Serves: 6 as a main dish, more as a side dish


1 loaf fresh ciabatta bread (or other similarly large, crusty bread)

2 pints (1 quart) cherry tomatoes (or 4-5 large tomatoes, cubed in 1/2″ cubes)

1 english cucumber

1 lb mozzarella pearls (or 1 lb mozzarella, cubed in 1/2″ cubes)

8-10 leaves fresh basil

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Make it Happen

1. Chop the bread into roughly 1/2″ cubes. Place them in a large serving bowl.

2. Wash the cherry tomatoes and dry them carefully. (I use a paper towel). Add the dry tomatoes to the bread and stir to combine. (Drying them prevents them from turning the bread into a soggy mess.)

3. Wash and chop the cucumber into 1/4 – 1/2″ cubes. Add them to the bowl and stir to combine.

4. Separate the mozzarella pearls and add them to the serving bowl, stirring to combine.

5. Wash, dry and roughly chop the basil leaves until they are in no more than 1/4″ pieces. Add them to the serving bowl and stir to combine.

6. Drizzle some of the olive oil over top of the mixture and stir to combine; add the remainder of the oil and stir to combine further.

{At this point, you can season further and serve or cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator, to bring out at a later point in the day. This is a perfect item to prepare in advance of a party. If you want to do most of the prep in advance of a big meal without taking up space in the fridge, simply move the mozzarella to the LAST step.}

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