Spicy Panzanella Recipe | PBS Food

A former classmate of mine, George, likes salads with a little kick. (As you can maybe tell, I do, too!) For inspiration, I turned to panzanella, a classic Italian bread-and-tomato salad. The Italians are true masters of making leftovers delicious. Here, old hard bread soaks up tomato juice and dressing for a super-flavorful and filling salad. You can toss in any vegetable or fruit as long as it’s juicy. Bell peppers or carrots won’t work so well, but peaches, grapes, and zucchini all do. If you don’t like spicy salads as much as George and I do, feel free to seed and stem the jalapeño to remove its fierce heat, or replace it entirely with garlic or shallot. - Leanne Brown

This recipe is courtesy of Leanne Brown.



  • 2 small field cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices day-old bread
  • Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a few drops for the pan
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tomato salt and pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • Additions
  • chopped fresh herbs
  • chopped peaches, nectarines, or
  • plums
  • finely chopped red onion
  • chopped zucchini or summer squash pitted olives
  • grapes


  1. If you’re using field cucumbers— usually cheaper than English—peel them to remove the tough skin. (A little leftover peel is not a problem.) For English cucumbers, there’s no need to peel.
  2. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the chopped tomatoes to use in the dressing, but throw the rest of the tomatoes and all of the cucumbers into a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; the salt helps draw out the juices. Toss the vegetables and set aside.
  3. Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add a few drops of olive oil. Add the jalapeño and sauté until it sizzles and smells good, about a minute, then add the rest of the chopped tomato and a tablespoon of water. Cook until the tomato juices release, another 2 minutes. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  4. Once the water has evaporated, turn off the heat and dump the jalapeño-tomato mixture on your cutting board. Chop it up very finely, then throw it back into the pan—with the heat off—with the lime juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to combine, taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. You’ve got dressing!
  5. Chop or tear the bread into bite-size pieces, then toast it in a skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until the bread chunks are toasty on all sides. Alternatively, just toast full slices of bread in a toaster and tear them up afterward, or skip the toasting if the bread is already super-hard.
  6. Add the bread and dressing to the vegetables and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper once more. Let the salad sit for a few minutes so that the bread can soak up the juices, then serve!
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