The classic Panzanella Salad made even more hearty and delicious by using tortellini!
This is without a doubt one of the heartiest pasta salads you’ll ever make. It’s also incredibly refreshing and flavoursome. Sound good? Follow me…
Panzanella is an Italian salad with roots in Tuscany, which at its heart, is simply tomatoes and soaked stale bread. It’s wrapped in a simple oil/vinegar dressing and takes on other gorgeous ingredients such as basil, cucumber and onion.
Stale Bread vs Croutons
The idea with this salad is to use up leftover stale bread. Because the bread has dried out, it’ll soak in the dressing without turning to mush. I have tried this salad with stale bread, but I much prefer toasting the bread to get it extra firm. The more dried out the bread, the more dressing it’ll absorb, whilst still keeping shape and some form of texture.
What kind of bread should I use?
I highly recommend using Sourdough. You need something sturdy in order to crisp up in the oven and soak in the dressing without going mushy. Ciabatta also works well. Soft sandwich bread is not suitable for this recipe.
Process shots: dice bread and coat in oil (photos 1&2), bake until light golden and crisp (photos 3&4).
Panzanella Salad Dressing
The dressing is a simple mix of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, alongside some shallots and garlic. I also love adding in some capers for an extra punch of flavour.
Salting the tomatoes
One tip I picked up from Serious Eats is salting the tomatoes before combing them with the salad. This intensifies the tomato flavour and also draws out moisture from the tomatoes too. This is handy because the juices add heaps of flavour to the dressing!
What kind of tomatoes should I use?
I like using Beef Tomatoes (/Beefsteak Tomatoes) because they hold up really well in this recipe. You can also dice them up really nicely into big rustic chunks. In reality though you can use most types of tomatoes. Just try and get them as fresh/ripe as possible!
Process shots: add dressing ingredients to bowl (photo 1), whisk (photo 2), salt tomatoes in colander above bowl (photo 3), toss and leave until they begin to sweat (photo 4).
Panzanella Tortellini Salad
Once the tomatoes have leaked out a good bit of moisture, you can then whisk the tomato juices into the dressing. From there, you can toss in some cooked tortellini, croutons, tomatoes and fresh basil.
What kind of tortellini should I use?
I find that any kind of cheese-stuffed tortellini works really nicely (four cheese, spinach & ricotta etc). You can play around with different flavours, but I’d definitely give a cheese variety a go first.
Soaking the bread
Once you’ve tossed everything together, you’ll want to let the pasta salad rest. This is necessary for a few different reasons:
- To allow the flavours to all marry together.
- Allow the tortellini to soak in flavour.
- The bread can soak in the dressing and soften slightly.
I find around 10 minutes is all you need. This will allow the bread to soak in the dressing, without turning mushy. The longer you rest the salad, the softer the bread gets. Although this will be dependent on how firm the bread was to begin with.
Process shots: whisk tomato juice into dressing (photo 1), add cooked & cooled tortellini (photo 2), add croutons, tomatoes and basil (photo 3), toss to combine (photo 4).
Serving Panzanella Tortellini Salad
After the salad has rested, you can go ahead and serve it right away! You don’t need any sides or anything, this is a really hearty salad that’s pretty filling (and that’s coming from me 😂).
Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this Panzanella tortellini pasta salad shall we?!
How to make Panzanella Tortellini Pasta Salad (Full Recipe & Video)
Panzanella Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Large Mixing bowl & Whisk
- Large Pot & Colander
- Large Baking Tray
- Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
Ingredients (check list):
- 500g / 1lb Beef Tomatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces (see notes)
- 500g / 1lb Tortellini (see notes)
- 225g / 8oz Sourdough, diced into bite-sized pieces
- 7 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 small bunch of Fresh Basil, roughly diced (1oz/30g)
- 1.5 tbsp Capers, drained
- 2 Shallots, very finely diced
- 2 small cloves of Garlic, very finely diced
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/8 - 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, capers, shallots, garlic and black pepper.
- Place a colander on top and add the tomatoes. Coat in 1/2 tsp salt and leave to drip for 20 minutes, tossing every now and then to encourage the tomatoes to leak.
- During this time add the bread to a large baking tray and toss in 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for around 12 minutes, or until light golden and crunchy. Allow the croutons to cool.
- Cook the tortellini in salted boiling water (take a minute or so off the packet timings). Drain and gently toss in cold water until completely cool.
- Remove the tomatoes and whisk the tomato juice with the dressing until well combined. Add in the tomatoes, tortellini, croutons & basil and toss to combine. Leave for 10 minutes, tossing a few times, until the croutons soak in the dressing. They should soften slightly but still have a little crunch.
- Serve right away then tuck in and enjoy!