Rustic Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes

Summer flavors blended with Sourdough Bread

Summer flavors blended with Sourdough Bread

Tomato, tom-AH-to….regardless of how you say it, this salad is delicious! Not for the gluten-free set, this is Rustic Bread Salad!

Bread Salad you say? How can bread be a salad? –easily and with vine ripened tomatoes, pearls of mozzarella and ribbons of fresh basil…and of course, bread!

Heirloom Tomatoes from my Kitchen Garden

Heirloom Tomatoes from my Kitchen Garden

I have been growing heirloom tomatoes this summer–Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Lemon Boy and Sun Gold Cherry tomatoes.  After finding countless ways to enjoy my tomatoes (I am the only tomato eater at my house! WHAT?), I wanted to share my tomato love with my bread-loving family.  Rustic Bread Salad is the perfect blend of awesomeness!  Sourdough bread cubes, dry from toasting (think croutons), chunks of succulent multi-hued tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, ribbons of fresh basil, pearls of fresh mozzarella.  All of this yummy-ness is tossed with good olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Panzanilla up closewcw

The Italian name for this Rustic Bread Salad is Panzanella.  There are as many variations of Panzanella as there are tomatoes.  Some add cucumber, others omit the cheese, some add more lettuce, others omit onion.  So, again, whatever you call this salad, it is savory, simple and adaptable to your garden or farmer’s market finds.  The longest preparation is toasting the bread cubes and there is a tip below to get you perfectly dry bread.  Don’t use fresh bread in your salad will result in soggy mush salad.  Trust me, toast your bread!  So, share Rustic Bread Salad with the tomato (and BREAD) fans in your life.  Let me know how you and they like it!



Rustic Bread Salad



Assorted vine-ripened tomatoes (2 large & 12 cherry tomatoes)

Half a loaf of sourdough bread, 3 cups cubed and lightly toasted*

½ red onion

1 cup of torn or chopped leaf lettuce

8 oz. fresh mozzarella

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

4 or 5 fresh basil leaves

Salt & Pepper


  1. Prepare sourdough bread by slicing into 1-inch cubes.  The bread should be dry.  So, day-old bread would work great. If using fresh bread, it’s important to lightly toast the cubes in the oven, just to dry them, is an excellent way to speed the process.  After the bread is dry (think crouton-like), set aside to cool.  See the tip below for toasting the bread cubes.
  2. Wash and trim tomatoes.  Use good, full flavor tomatoes, not mushy, mealy grocery store imposters.  I used my heirloom varieties from my kitchen garden.  Cherokee purple, Mortgage Lifter and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes made the cut for my salad.
  3. Cut tomatoes into bite size pieces– cube the large tomatoes, and half the cherry tomatoes.  Place tomatoes into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Thinly slice the red onion and add to the tomatoes.
  5. Add the fresh mozzarella to the tomato/onion mixture.  I started with bite sized “pearl” mozzarella.  If using a larger ball of mozzarella, cube into bite size pieces and then add to the tomato/onion mixture.
  6. Prepare the thin ribbons of basil by placing the 4 or 5 basil leaves on top of one another and rolling longwise into a log shape.  Slice thin strips of the basil log across the short end of the log.  Add the thin strips to the tomato/onion/mozzarella mixture.
  7. Add the sourdough bread cubes and the chopped or torn leaf lettuce to the tomato/onion/mozzarella mixture and toss gently.
  8. In a small jar with a lid, combine the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  With the lid firmly attached, shake vigorously to combine the oil and vinegar.
  9. Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the salad.  Toss gently to coat.  Allow the salad to rest in the refrigerator for up to 20 minutes, allowing the crusty bread to soften.
  10. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  11. Place the salad on a serving platter or individual salad plates.
  12. Serve and enjoy the flavors of summer.
A Plate of Summer Goodness

A Plate of Summer Goodness

TIP: Drying out the bread cubes goes quickly if toasting lightly in an oven.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Toss the bread cubes with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bread just begins to turn golden. 

Toasting bread cubes helps dry them for the juicy salad

Toasting bread cubes helps dry them for the juicy salad


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