Pesto Panzanella Salad

Ingredients for a pesto panzanella salad

Introduction
We know it's a cliche, but panzanella is one of those dishes where it's all about the quality of ingredients. So much so in fact, that we don't even bother trying to make it outside of late-May to early-October. The watery, tasteless tomatoes you find out of season are always such a disappointment.

Pro tip
You can make panzanella with any tomato variety, but a mixture of shapes, colours and sweetness makes for a more interesting eat. Looks cooler too!

Ingredients for two

Tomatoes 400g
Sourdough 150g
Pesto 50g
Cucumber 1/2
Red onion 1/2 small
Garlic 1/2 clove
Olive oil 70g
Red wine vinegar 20g
Basil for garnish
Pine nuts for garnish

A note on ingredients
Because we've already committed a cardinal sin by adding pesto to our panzanella, we've kept the rest of the recipe pretty loyal to what you'd be served in the salad's spiritual home of Tuscany. Having said that, in the past we've added a whole bunch of other ingredients - olives, capers, anchovies, mozzarella and hard-boiled eggs - and have been pretty chuffed with the results.

Pesto panzanella salad

Method
The first step is to wash and dice your tomatoes. Some people obsess about making them all a uniform size but we much prefer chopping them different sizes for a more interesting mouthfeel.

Put your tomatoes in a sieve over a bowl and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Set your alarm for 15-minutes, then rinse off the salt, but reserve the liquid that's been expelled from the tomatoes. This stuff is liquid gold and it will shortly be used to enhance your vinaigrette.

Finely slice the red onion and chop the cucumber into cubes around the size of a pea. Set aside.

Traditional wisdom says to use stale bread, but for our money, fresh bread toasted in the oven is far superior. Preheat an oven to 150°C and chop your sourdough into cubes around the size of a die. Mix 50g of the olive oil with the pesto and liberally coat the bread pieces. Bake them in the oven until they have just started to go crispy, about 10 minutes.

For the vinaigrette, crush the garlic, season, then whisk in the red wine vinegar, the reserved juices from the salted tomatoes and the remaining olive oil.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and them leave to hang out at room temperature for 15 minutes get to know each other. During this time the bread has a chance to soak up some of the vinaigrette, resulting in many unpredictable but very welcome textures... everything from soft and chewy to crisp and brittle.

Give the salad one final toss and serve with a chilled glass of sparkling rosé.

Close-up of a panzanella salad with pesto

Serving suggestions
Roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes
Grilled, buttery sweetcorn with balsamic glaze
Warm burrata
Poached salmon
Crispy grilled chicken wings