Panzanella, also known as “pan lavato” (washed pan), is an ancient dish, which was already mentioned in Boccaccio’s works back in the 14th century. It is a peasant dish that is born from the recovery of stale bread.
Where does the name come from?
There are no reliable sources, but it is assumed that the name derives from the association of the two terms pane (bread) and zanella, or soup, but it may also have been the word “panzana“, which originally meant baby food, to have given this dish the name we know today.
What about its origin?
There are several variants on its birth, but its origins are presumably connected to the peasantry’s ability to soak the dry bread in the water and then eating it with vegetables they had available in their gardens.
Another story recounts that this dish was born on fishing boats: sailors used sea water to soften the bread. They then dried and flavored it with vegetables.
Nowdays Panzanella is a typical Tuscan, summer, cheap dish but at the same time very tasty and fresh. It is known as a peasant/poor dish because its origin, as described above, provides a very simple and fast recipe.
In fact, it is a dish with only bread, onion and vinegar. However with the years the dish has undergone a change with the addition of a new ingredient: the tomato.
The characteristic of preparation is not so much in bread or tomato, but in the fact that the bread is soaked in water and vinegar and then mixed with tomatoes, red onion, vinegar, cucumber, basil, salt and oil. Panzanella is a kind of tomato juice but cold, less creamy and quicker to prepare.
What are the ingredients?
How do these ingredients mix together to give birth to Panzanella?
First, take the sliced bread for a few seconds, immersing it in a container with equal water and vinegar. When the bread is removed from the container, care must be taken to remove excess water. To do this you just need to squeeze it. At this point you have to break the slices of bread and place them in a salad bowl.
Add some vegetable for the seasoning: it starts with cut tomatoes (be sure to remove the seeds as well). Also add an onion cut into slices, not overly thin, and cucumbers. Then flavor with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
Last but not least lots of fresh basil!
What else to say? For sure Panzanella is not a Michelin-starred dish, but it is certainly a fast and fresh dish that in summer leaves any palate satisfied.
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