Spring Panzanella: It's all about the BREAD

spring panz3

A summer panzanella salad is all about the end of summer, ripe tomatoes and basil, or is it?

Maybe it's really just a vehicle for these fantastic, garlicky croutons.

Instead of tomatoes, this version of panzanella salad highlights spring produce, leeks and asparagus.....and the croutons, of course.

WARNING: These croutons are scary, so make a double batch. You will wind up eating them right off the baking sheet, they are that good.

The addition of the white beans makes this a hearty spring dinner, not just a side salad. We ate this as a meal, and it was even better for lunch the next day.

Spring Panzanella (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):


8 slices of stale bread, Italian preferably, crusts removed and cubed
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the rest of the ingredients.
Lay on a baking sheet and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, turning them once or twice in between baking.


1/2 red onion, diced
2 tbsp white wine or white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Make the dressing ahead and let it sit on the counter for a while, so the onion mellows in the vinegar.


bunch of asparagus, woody ends trimmed
4 leeks, white parts only
2 tsp salt
can of white beans, drained (I use Goya small white beans)

Steam asparagus spears for 2 minutes, and shock in ice water to stop the cooking process. Slice into 1" pieces.

Wash leeks well by cutting them in half lengthwise and running them under cold water.
In a 12" skillet, cover leeks with water and add 2 tsp of salt. Simmer the leeks gently for 15 minutes.

The leeks will be slippery wet and hard to cut, so make sure you hold them tightly and use a very sharp knife, or they will slip (a bit of a pain and not the most practical way to slice leeks). Slice into 1" pieces.

Toss the asparagus pieces with the leeks and white beans. Add the dressing and toss all ingredients together gently.
Add the croutons and toss to combine.



tasteofbeirut said…
Love the addition of white beans! This salad is perfect and right up my alley with a dressing after my own heart; when I made pan bagnat recently, reading up on food from Nice, I found out that the salade ni├žoise used to be like this panzanella, with croutons of country bread. Then it evolved into the pan bagnat.
The JR said…
I really like the way this looks. I think I would like to very much try it.
Ciao Chow Linda said…
I love this combination Stacey and I know those croutons are addictive. Even without them, the salad would be great for lunch or as a side dish.
I love love love this!
kat said…
I never thought of making this without tomatoes, it sounds so great!
Natalie said…
I recently made a caprese panzanella and it's one of my favorite new meals. I can't wait to try this version!
Natalie said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Creative idea for panzanella. It's about time someone uses something other than tomatoes!
Jen_from_NJ said…
I absolutely love this! Using spring vegetables is such a good idea. Oh, and I love garlicky croutons... Scary!
For me, a summer panzanella tastes good anytime. I'd like to pair mine with a couple of your polenta bouchees with fig balsamic jam, please.
Annie said…
Super Yum! Wish I could reach through the computer and grab a crouton!
Stacey, I love the addition of spring vegetables and white beans in the Panzanella salad. They make it so fresh.

You are so right - make a lot of extra croutons. I start to "test" one and before I know it, half (or more) are gone.
I love panzanella and this version looks great!
Michele said…
I love this version with beans! Your bread looks perfectly toasted!
Dana said…
I can't have croutons in my house because I will eat them all. I love this version!