Panzanella Toscana With Chicken and Mozzarella
This Panzanella Toscana Salad with chicken is a perfect prep-ahead Italian family weeknight dinner with toasty bread, tomatoes, mozzarella, and more!
Is there really a better tasting salad that one made up of bread? This Panzanella Toscana Recipe with fresh garden veggies is absolutely delicious and becomes a complete meal with the addition of chicken.
You get toasty bread, bright tomatoes, cool and crisp cucumber, herby basil, and creamy mozzarella, all tossed in a sweet and tangy vinaigrette. It really is perfection. I love it for lunch, but it would be a great Summer dinner as well. And the best part is that you don’t need to wait for your bread to stale, you can simply toast it in the oven for 15 minutes, toss it with the other ingredients, and enjoy.
Panzanella Salad is a typical dish in Tuscany in Italy. I first enjoyed it on my honeymoon as we traveled through the Tuscany region and explored Florence and Siena. I love my variation with chicken which really makes it a meal.
Simple Ingredients for Panzanella Salad with Chicken
- Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless – leftover chicken is great in this recipe. You can also substitute in boneless skinless chicken thighs.
- French baguette or other crusty bread loaf – A baguette or other long crusty bread is best for Panzanella. The crust tends to stay the crispiest, so I like to use a lot of it in this recipe. You can also use a boulle or other whole loaf bread that you need to cut yourself. You do not want to buy pre-sliced breads. It can be fresh bread or up to a few days old bread in Panzanella. You do not need to leave it out to stale in order to use it.
- Tomatoes – I prefer vine ripe tomatoes as they are fresh and juicy. You can use cherry, grape, plum, or beefsteak tomatoes.
- English Cucumber, medium – I like english cucumber because the skin is delicate and edible. The regular cucumbers have a thick, waxy skin that isn’t great to eat. You can go with these, but I recommend peeling them before cutting and adding to the salad.
- Fresh Basil leaves – there really is no substitute for fresh, but of course, you can use a teaspoon of dried in a pinch. I would actually mix dried into the dressing.
- Fresh Mozzarella – The chunks of fresh mozzarella are really ideally here. You could leave this out all together; however, and still have a delicious salad.
- Red Onion, finely diced – Sometimes red onion is added in larger slices directly to the salad, but I prefer to finely dice it into the dressing, so that it’s flavor is more subdued. You can substitute shallots.
- Garlic, minced – fresh is best in this salad dressing, but you could use garlic powder if you don’t have fresh.
- Other Dressing Ingredients: Extra virgin olive oil, White or Red Wine Vinegar, Dijon Mustard, Honey, Salt, Ground Black Pepper – you can also use a store bought simple vinaigrette.
No Special Equipment Needed!
Nothing special for this one! Just a large sheet pan (I use a 17×11) for toasting the bread in the oven.
And mincing garlic is made super easy with a Garlic Press.
Time Saving Prep-Ahead Steps for Panzanella Toscana
We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are steps you can prepare ahead to save time on busy nights! (See the full recipe below)
The first thing you want to do is cook and shred the chicken. You can save time by buying already roasted or grilled chicken. The deli will often have grilled chicken and bigger stores have rotisserie chickens. Both are great as you can simply shred them and you’re all set. Read more tips for Prepping and Storing Chicken for Easier Dinners.
If you’re doing it from scratch, you can season with salt and pepper and either grill it on high heat for 5-6 minutes on each side or roast in the oven according to the recipe instructions. Cook until internal temp reaches 165 F degrees.
NOTE: to save time, the instructions have the bread going in the oven with the chicken for the last 15 minutes of the cooking time. However, you can cook the chicken entirely for 20 minutes at 400 F degrees. Then separately toast the bread at 300 F degrees for 15 minutes.
For the bread, I like to first get the pan ready so that as I cut the bread, I can drop the cubes directly into the pan. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil onto a large sheet pan. Using a brush or back of a fork, spread the oil around the pan.
Cube the bread loaf and spread the cubes out on the oiled sheet pan and toss to get a little bit of oil on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes in a 300 F degree oven.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-size pieces.
Cut tomatoes into bite-size cubes, slice the cucumber into half circles, finely dice the red onion, and mince the garlic. Cut the cheese into bite-size cubes.
In a small bowl, add the Dijon, Oil, Vinegar, Honey, red onion, Salt, Pepper. Whisk together with a fork or small whisk until completely blended together.
Assemble Your Tuscan Panzanella
To a large bowl, add the toasted bread, chicken, tomato, and cucumber. Tear half of the basil leaves into the bowl. Drizzle half of the dressing over and toss to combine. Taste for dressing and more as desired.
Add the cheese and give a light toss. Tear off more basil for garnish and enjoy!
Panzanella Toscana with Chicken FAQs
What type of bread is best for this Panzanella Recipe?A baguette or other long crusty bread is best for Panzanella. The crust tends to stay the crispiest, so I like to use a lot of it in this recipe. You can also use a boulle or other whole loaf bread that you need to cut yourself. You do not want to buy pre-sliced breads. They are sliced for sandwiches and therefore, will be too thin to hold up with the dressing. The result will be a soggy bread salad.
Does bread used in Panzanella recipes need to be stale?You can use fresh bread, a day old, or a few days old bread in Panzanella. You do not need to leave it out to stale in order to use it. If it’s fresh or a day or so old, but still soft, then simply follow the recipe instructions. When the bread is older and has gotten hard, as long as you can still cut it, then follow the instructions. If not, you can quickly run cold water over the bread, wrap it in aluminum foil and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes to steam and soften. Then follow the instructions in the recipe.
Can this Panzanella Salad be dressed ahead?If you dress this Panzanella salad more than right before serving, the bread will start to get soggy. Therefore, I really do not recommend dressing it ahead. However, you can do everything else, even toast the bread up to an hour ahead. Just leave the bread in the pan until your ready to mix the salad and serve it.
ENJOY! 😍 Carrie
Have you tried this recipe? If so, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star rating in the recipe below! I love to hear your feedback and your rating helps others to find this recipe. Thanks so much!
Panzanella Toscana With Chicken and Mozzarella
- 12 ounces Chicken Breasts boneless and skinless
- 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 12 ounces French baguette or other crusty bread loaf
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground black pepper
Other Salad Ingredients
- 2 Vine Tomatoes
- 1 English Cucumber, medium
- Basil leaves
- 6 ounces Fresh Mozzarella
- 1 Tablespoons Red Onion, finely diced
- 1 clove Garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 1 Tablespoons Honey
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- ROAST CHICKEN. Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Put the chicken breast on a baking sheet and rub with a drizzle of Olive Oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven bottom rack for 10 minutes at 400 F degrees. Then turn the oven down to 300 F degrees and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until internal temp reaches 165 degrees F. (NOTE: the bread in the next step will be added to the oven as well for this last 15 minutes).
- TOAST BREAD. While the Chicken cooks for 10 minutes, drizzle 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil onto a large sheet pan. Using a brush or back of a fork, spread the oil around the pan. Cube the bread loaf and spread the cubes out on the oiled sheet pan and toss to get a little bit of oil on all sides. Sprinkle with a sprinkle of salt (about ½ tsp) and black pepper (about ¼ tsp). Bake in the oven top rack for 15 minutes in the 300 F degree oven with the chicken.
- CUT CHICKEN. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-size cubes.
- PREP VEGGIES. Cut tomatoes into bite-size cubes. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, then slice into half circles. Finely dice the red onion. Mince the garlic.
- PREP CHEESE. Cut the cheese into bite-size cubes.
- MAKE DRESSING. In a small bowl, add the Dijon, Oil, Vinegar, Honey, red onion, Salt, Pepper. Whisk together with a fork or small whisk until completely blended together.
- MIX SALAD. To a large bowl, add the toasted bread, chicken, tomato, and cucumber. Tear half of the basil leaves into the bowl. Drizzle half of the dressing over and toss to combine. Taste for dressing and more as desired. Add the cheese and give a light toss. Tear off more basil for garnish and enjoy!