It’s a classic and beloved Italian dish – panzanella – and once you try it, you’ll know why. Croutons soaked in extra-virgin olive oil and diced summer tomatoes. What more could you ask for? How about some bacon?! I like to add crispy prosciutto to my salad. It adds some texture and, of course, lots of flavor. Either way, this is the perfect salad for the summer. I mean, who’s to argue with the Italians? Capisce?!
Italian Bread Salad with Crispy Prosciutto
Yield: 2 servings
1 1/2 cups large hand torn croutons from Sourdough bread (crusts removed)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 slices prosciutto, torn into medium pieces
2 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, diced small (3 tablespoons)
¼ teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 large tomato, diced medium, seeds removed and reserved
1/2 hothouse cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced on a bias
1/4 cup green olives, pits discarded and chopped roughly, optional
8 medium basil leaves, hand torn
Place an oven rack on the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a small bowl, toss to combine the hand torn croutons with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
Spread the croutons and prosciutto pieces on a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the croutons are toasted, but still soft in the middle and the prosciutto is crispy. (You may have to take out the croutons before the prosciutto.)
In a small container with a tight fitting lid, add the vinegars, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the tomato seeds. Close the lid and shake vigorously until well combined.
Place diced shallots and oregano in a small bowl. Using a tea strainer, strain the vinaigrette over the shallots so the tomato seeds do not combine with the shallots. Discard the tomato seeds.
In a large bowl, gently fold to combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, olives (if using), basil, croutons and the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide onto plates, drizzle each plate with olive oil and top with some of the crispy prosciutto pieces.
P.S. The quality of olive oil is always important, but especially in a salad where you can really taste its flavor. I’m partial to my favorite brand, Lucini Italia. Their olive oil is perfectly balanced and their vinegars are excellent as well. It can be found at most grocery stores or you can buy it online – in bulk!