Roasted Heirloom Tomato Caprese Panzanella Salad with Balsamic

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One of my favorite things about August in Michigan? Tomatoes. Specifically, super-fresh warm-off-the-vine local tomatoes, the kind you just can’t get here in the winter. I also love stacking sliced tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and basil to create a Caprese salad, but sometimes I just want something with a little more rib-sticking power.

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of a panzanella, or bread salad, which quickly became one of my favorite go-to side dishes (though unfortunately, they don’t last long when served to guests.) As part of my partnership with Marzetti®I decided to find out how well it would work to create a Caprese panzanella salad.

It turns out, the answer is “very well.” 

 

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This salad is super-simple to make and features just a handful of ingredients, but it’s different enough to impress guests, and filling enough to stand in for dinner. The crusty bread soaks up that delicious tomato and balsamic goodness and creates a crunchy-chewy-soft-juicy mix of textures, while the tangy mozzarella, basil and balsamic flavors meld perfectly with the sweet tomato. YUM. 

To make this hearty summer salad, you’ll need: 

  • 4 cups of crusty bread, cubed
  • 4 cups of tomatoes, sliced into chunks
  • 1 cup basil leaves, torn up
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes. Buy the fresh kind that’s packed in water. I went for the pearl-sized balls.  
  • 1/8 cup Marzetti Simply Dressed & Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

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Like any great Caprese salad, the first step is choosing the tomatoes. I found these yellow and red heirloom beauties at a local farm market and they pretty much begged for me to buy them. Yes, farmstand tomatoes often have little dings and imperfections, but the flavor can’t be beat (and you can just cut off any bad spots.) 

I roasted the cubed tomatoes on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees F, first drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Roasting isn’t a crucial step if you’re in a hurry, but I love that it adds another level of sweetness and really concentrates the flavor. 

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The great thing about a panzanella salad is that you can use stale bread – in fact, stale bread holds up better to the juices than fresh. If you don’t have any stale bread, check your bakery for marked-down bread – it’s often on the crustier side. If your bread is still pretty soft, you will probably want to toast it in the oven for a while – that way they won’t soak up the tomato juice too fast and get soggy.

I put my bread cubes on a cookie sheet, drizzled them with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and put in the same 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes until they were firm and crusty.

After this, making the salad is pretty much just a matter of assembly! Mix the bread, the basil leaves, the cooled tomatoes, the mozzarella cubes or pearls (drain both the tomatoes and mozzarella well to keep the soggy factor down,) sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper, and then add the secret sauce: Simply Dressed & Light Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Now just toss, grab a fork, and dig in. Preferably before anyone else sees what you’re doing, because you are not going to want to share. 

Is your mouth watering? I’d love to hear what you think of this delicious summer salad!

I have been invited to participate in a Marzetti® ambassador program. This post is sponsored by Marzetti and product has been provided by them. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.

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