Zingerman’s Tomato & Arugula Panzanella


A recipe from the Deli Kitchen

by Rodger Bowser, Chef and Managing Partner

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: We know classic panzanella is a bread and tomato salad. And we know that traditionalists might balk at our addition of seasonal salad greens. (Is now a bad time to tell you about how we make a spring twist on panzanella, too, with morel mushrooms and ramps…? Panzanella purists, avert your eyes!) But, as managing partner Rodger Bowser explains, “Every summer one or two vegetables grow in more abundance than we have ever seen and it turns into something special in the salad case.” One year that vegetable happened to be arugula. We found its peppery kick to be the perfect foil to this hearty salad (not to mention a delicious conduit for eating more greens) and we’ve never looked back—to this day it remains one of our all-time best sellers!

We always say, “You really can taste the difference,” and it’s especially true for dishes like this one. With a limited number of ingredients, the quality of them shows up front and center. It relies on artisan bread and fantastic tomatoes. We use Farm bread from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, a naturally leavened (aka sourdough) bread with a thick caramelized crust. It’s fine to use slightly stale bread, but don’t skip the spin in the oven, the light toasting helps the bread stand up to the salad dressing. We often use Roma tomatoes, they’re firm and have a lower moisture content than some other tomatoes do (which prevents the salad from getting soggy). Cherry tomato varieties like Sun Gold and Cherry Bomb are great as well. Feel free to stray to what looks best at the farmers market and pick up a bundle of arugula (or radish tops or other spicy greens) while you’re there. This is not the recipe to utilize a plastic clamshell filled with baby arugula, it will melt away into nothing in the salad. We use fire-roasted piquillo peppers that are already peeled, but you can also roast your own peppers at home and peel them. 

Zingerman’s Tomato & Arugula Panzanella

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

1/4 loaf of Farm bread, cut into 1-inch pieces (5–6 cups)

1 cup olive oil

1¼ oz (2½ Tbsp) 6-year balsamic vinegar 

¼ oz (2 or 3 cloves) garlic

¼ oz (1¾ tsp) fine sea salt

⅛ oz (1 tsp) ground Tellicherry pepper

2 oz (¼ cup) piquillo peppers

¼ lb (about ½ of a medium-sized) red onion, julienned

1 ¼ lbs tomatoes, chopped (4 to 4½ cups)

5 – 10 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade 

1 bunch of arugula, 1-inch chiffonade

  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and firm, but not browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. Make the dressing by blending together the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and piquillo peppers with an immersion blender. 
  4. In a medium bowl, add the bread, onion, tomatoes, and basil. Add the dressing and toss to coat.
  5. Add the greens, toss again, just before serving.