Kid-friendly Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad

Recipe: Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad

Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad

by Dylan Sabuco
Photo by New Africa/
prep time
15 minutes
cook time
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad

Panzanella (PAHN-tsah-nehl-lah), a simple bread-and-tomato-salad, is a delicious example of the Italian tradition of "cucina povera" (literally "poor kitchen"). This philosophy is based on making great food with inexpensive, high-quality, readily available ingredients. 

Like all smart home cooks, Italian peasants made the most of their leftovers. When fresh bread turned stale, clever Italians discovered ways to incorporate it into meals, a little move that led to the creation of two of Italy's favorite soups—ribollita and pappa al pomodoro. Panzanella is another shining example of Italian creativity and thrift, made from inexpensive ingredients you probably already have on hand—tomatoes and bread. 

But don't be fooled by its simplicity! Panzanella absolutely bursts with flavor and texture! It's the perfect summer salad and a great way to use up stale bread and ripe, ready-to-use tomatoes!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • tear :

    to pull or rip apart a food, like basil leaves, into pieces instead of cutting with a knife; cutting breaks cell walls more, so herbs can discolor faster.

  • whisk :

    to beat or stir ingredients vigorously with a fork or whisk to mix, blend, or incorporate air.

Equipment Checklist

  • Skillet (if toasting bread slices)
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Citrus juicer (optional)
  • Pitcher
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon or rubber spatula


Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad

  • 1 French baguette OR 4 to 5 slices of any nut-free type of bread **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free bread)**
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 C cherry tomatoes
  • 2 green onions
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper

Food Allergen Substitutions

Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad

  • Gluten/Wheat: For 1 French baguette, substitute 4 to 5 gluten-free/nut-free bread slices. If using gluten-free bread, toasting it will help prevent it from becoming soggy.


Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad


Panzanella (PAHN-tsah-nehl-lah) salad is a dish that stretches the limits of your imagination. It is a salad with no lettuce—only bread, cheese, tomatoes, and dressing. This Italian classic is sure to make you rethink what it means to be a salad.

tear + chop

Start by tearing or or chopping 1 baguette or 4 to 5 slices of bread into a large dice and place all the bread in a large mixing bowl. (If not using a crusty baguette, or if using gluten-free bread, we recommend toasting the bread first.) Then, roughly chop 2 green onions, 1 sprig of rosemary, and 1 cup cherry tomatoes and add those to the large bowl as well.

juice + measure + whisk

In a separate bowl, measure 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 pinch of black pepper. Also, add the juice of 1 lemon to the bowl. Whisk until the mixture is fully combined.

combine + serve

Pour the dressing over the bread and tomato mixture. Then, gently stir to combine. That's all it takes to make a super delicious panzanella salad. Serve immediately so the bread does not become soggy. Serve your Aunt Rosemary's Panzanella Bread Salad alongside Fried Cheese Frico and Italian Sweet Rosemary Fizz (see recipes) for the perfect flavor combination. Salute!

Surprise Ingredient: Bread!

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Photo by Raul Mellado Ortiz/

Hi! I'm Bread!

"I'm a popular food all around the world and I come in many different forms! You can make a sandwich with me, serve me as a side with a meal, toast me, or cut me into cubes to make a stuffing or bread pudding!"

  • Bread is considered a staple food in many countries and can be an important part of a person's diet. 
  • The history of bread probably started with primitive flatbread made from flour from available edible plants. The plant roots would have been pounded and ground against a rock to create a starchy substance that could be made into dough. If the dough was left to rest outside, air-borne yeast spores might have acted as a natural raising agent.
  • There is archaeological evidence that a 14,500-year-old Natufian culture in Jordan made bread, and Neolithic peoples began using grains to make bread around 10,000 BCE. In 6000 BCE, the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia baked leavened bread using wood ash, and in 3000 BCE, the Egyptians improved the method by adding yeast to their flour.
  • Eventually, bakers started experimenting with other sources of yeast, such as beer and wine. However, it was more common to set aside some fermented dough from a previous batch to form a starter for a new batch of bread dough. Bread starter is sometimes called the "mother dough" and is still used when baking sourdough bread. 
  • Today, active dry yeast or instant (rapid-rise) dry yeast is an easy way to add leavening to your dough when making homemade bread.
  • Bread is typically made from wheat flour but can also be made from corn, oat, rye, and other grains. Wheat sometimes has to be added to these other flours because it has more gluten content, which creates a more elastic dough.   
  • Gluten-free bread, made without wheat or other grains that have gluten, began to be sold in the early 2000s for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies. These breads may include flours from almonds, corn, rice, or garbanzo beans, and potato or tapioca starch. 
  • In addition to sourdough bread, famous in San Francisco, other white yeasted breads with a hard crust include French baguettes and Italian ciabatta. Italian focaccia bread is a flatter, leavened bread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt. 
  • There are also whole wheat, multigrain, rye, oat, and potato breads. Rustic breads are typically hand-shaped before baking rather than put in a loaf pan.
  • Bread is typically baked in an oven, but if you do not have access to an oven, you can bake it on a stovetop in a cast iron Dutch oven or a large pot or saucepan. You can also bake bread in an air fryer, slow cooker, toaster oven, or microwave, with varying results. Bread machines that mix, knead, proof, and bake are popular with some home bakers. 
  • Breads made with an enriched dough that includes eggs, milk, sugar, or a combination, include French brioche, Jewish babka and challah, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, and doughnuts. 
  • The type of bread and the flour or other ingredients used determine the amount of nutrients it contains. For example, whole-grain bread has more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals than other breads. 
  • Adding whole-grain bread to your diet will help with digestion and control blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight. It also lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

What is Panzanella?

Photo by marco mayer/
  • Panzanella (PAHN-tsah-nehl-lah) is a bread salad from the Tuscany region of Italy. It is made of stale or toasted bread, onions, and tomatoes. It may also include basil and cucumbers.
  • The name "panzanella" includes part of the Italian word for "bread" in it: "pane" (PAHN-ay), and it is thought to be a combination of "pane" and "zanella," which could be a small bowl or basket. 
  • The salad has a long history in central Italy, at least 500 years, using stale or dried-out bread that was soaked in water and then added to onions, cucumbers, basil, and tomato, with an olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Let's Learn About Italy!

Photo by Marina Andrejchenko/
  • Italy became a unified country in 1861, only 150 years ago. It is sometimes called "bel paese" or "beautiful country."  
  • Italians invented the piano and the thermometer! 
  • In ancient Roman mythology, two twin brothers named Romulus and Remus founded Rome, Italy's capital city. The myth says the twins were abandoned and then discovered by a she-wolf before being found and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Eventually (and after many exciting adventures), they found themselves at the location of Palatine Hill, where Romulus built "Roma." The Italian wolf became Italy's unofficial national animal. 
  • In the 1930s and 40s, Mussolini, Italy's prime minister, and dictator tried to eliminate all foreign words from the Italian language. How did he do that? He just changed them! For example, in soccer, "goal" became "meta." Disney character names changed, too: Donald Duck became "Paperino;" Mickey Mouse became "Topolino;" and Goofy became "Pippo." Although they're not banned anymore, these words and names have stuck. So now if you go to the Italian Disneyland, called Gardaland Park, you will see Topolino and Pippo! 
  • About 60 million people call Italy home, and it is 116,350 square miles, slightly larger than the US state of Arizona. If you compare that to the United Kingdom, 67 million people live there, and it is about 94,350 square miles. So, the UK is smaller than Italy but has a bigger population! 
  • The Italian flag is green, white, and red. These colors represent hope, faith, and charity.
  • The average Italian eats close to 55 pounds of pasta annually. If you think about how light pasta is, that is a considerable amount! There are more than 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy today. 

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Italy?

  • Kids begin school at 6 years old. They grow up speaking Italian, but they learn English in school, so many become bilingual in Italian and English.
  • The most popular sport for kids is football (soccer). The Italian word for soccer is "calcio," the same word they use for "kick." A favorite of younger kids is "Rody, the bouncing horse," a plastic horse that a small child can hop onto and bounce around the room. Rody was invented in Italy in 1984.  
  • The family ("la famiglia") is a central characteristic of Italian life. Children have great respect for their older relatives. It is traditional to name the first male child after the grandfather and the first female child after the grandmother.
  • If kids live close to school, they can go home and have lunch with their families! Lunch at school might be pasta, meat with vegetables, a sandwich, or a salad with lots of ingredients. Families typically eat dinner later (7 to 8 pm), so kids end up staying up later, too!
  • Between lunch and dinner, kids often enjoy "merenda," which is an afternoon snack that translates to "something that is deserved." It is really a mini-meal that can include both savory and sweet foods. Examples of savory foods are a salami or mortadella sandwich, a slice of rustic bread rubbed with a cut, raw tomato, or "pizza bianca" (white pizza without tomato sauce). Types of sweet foods eaten during merenda are "gelato" (a lower-fat type of ice cream), any kind of cake, or biscotti dipped in warm milk.

That's Berry Funny

Why did Rosemary get kicked out of the spice rack? 

She took too much Thyme!

The Yolk's On You

When does bread rise?

When you yeast expect it to!

That's Berry Funny

It took days to come up with this rosemary pun.

It was a long thyme cumin!

That's Berry Funny

How do you fix a broken tomato? 

Tomato paste!

Lettuce Joke Around

Why doesn't bread like warm weather? 

Things get toasty!

Lettuce Joke Around

What did the butter say to the bread? 

"I'm on a roll!'

THYME for a Laugh

Why did the tomato blush? 

Because he saw the salad dressing!

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