Panzanella is another great example of how well Italians do it the kitchen when fridge and pantry look desolate and empty.
This has so much value in the Italian culinary tradition of Cucina Povera.
It is very easy to create a good meal out of sophisticated and extravagant ingredients. It requires a lot more skill and creativity to make a delicious and nutritious meal out of stale bread and a few bits and pieces.
Lucky for me, having spent the first 27 years of my life in Italy observing Mum and Nonna making do with what they had to feed big families, I can safely say I have acquired that skill!
Panzanella, is a salad composed of pieces of stale bread previously soaked in water and a teeny bit of white wine vinegar, mixed together with tomatoes, celery leaves and a small handful of chopped celery stalks, torn basil leaves, finely chopped red onion or shallot, and baby capers all merrily dressed with EVOO and salt.
These are ingredients that, even in the bleakest of situations, are always present in an Italian kitchen and that is how this dish came about.
Let the salad sit and develop texture and flavour for at least two hours. You can even make this a day ahead and then add fresh basil and a drizzle of EVOO just before you serve it.
I urge you not to be tempted to add many more extraneous ingredients. Feel free to substitute the celery with a small amount of diced baby green pepper (capsicum), if you must, but don’t go berserk and start adding things like raw garlic or meat of any kind.
Sorry to be pedantic and fastidious, that is, I am afraid, another quality I have acquired in my first 27 years of living in Italy!