In Tuscany where my fraternal Great-grandparents, Grandparents and my Dad were born, leftover bread is never wasted as it is put to any uses. You will find it in all kinds of appetizers such as crostini and fettunata, soups like ribollita ,and meatballs, among many other things. It is also the basis for a tomato salad called Panzanella, of which there as many versions as there are Nonnas.
This happens to be one of the ways my Little Nonna made use of stale bread, and it is a family favorite.
1/3 CUP RED WINE VINEGAR – or more to taste
1 GARLIC CLOVE – or more to taste, minced
8 OZ ITALIAN BREAD – stale, cut into cubes
1 RED ONION – thinly sliced
7-8 CUPS water – cold
2 LBS PLUMB TOMATOES – very ripe, coarsely chopped to make 5 cups
1 CUP FRESH BASIL LEAVES – torn into little pieces
½ CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
1 SMALL CUCUMBER – thinly sliced, optional
- Pour vinegar into a small bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil and minced garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place bread in a large bowl and pour in enough water to cover the bread.
- Soak for about 5 minutes, drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.
- Add tomato, onion basil and cucumber, if using. Toss with enough of the vinaigrette to coat.
- Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if necessary.
NOTE: you can make this early in the day, if you would like to. Just cover and refrigerate, Remove, and let stand at least 1 hour at room temperature before serving.
I can turn this salad into a complete summer meal by adding a can of Italian tuna (packed in oil) and a hard-boiled egg chopped.