Gluten-Free Panzanella – An Easy & Delicious Recipe


One of Italy’s beloved summer dishes (along with classics like insalata caprese) is panzanella.

It combines leftover ingredients like yesterday’s bread with fresh, in-season vegetables.   

If you’re gluten-free, panzanella is off-limits due to the bread, but we’ve got a simple substitute. Now you can have gluten-free panzanella with this easy and delicious recipe!

Good To Know:  You may also see or hear panzanella called panmolle, panmòllo, pane ‘nzuppo, or pansanella.

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When and Where to Eat Panzanella

Enjoy panzanella in the summer, when the main ingredients (tomatoes, cucumber, basil, tropea onion) are at their prime.

You can have it at:

  • Aperitivo
  • Merenda (snack time for kids)
  • Lunch or dinner as an antipasto (appetizer) or a main dish
  • A picnic – pause your drive and watch the sunset or relax at the edge of a vineyard

You can enjoy panzanella throughout Italy, but you’ll rarely find a gluten-free version at an Italian restaurant.

Fortunately, you can buy the ingredients at markets or a grocery store and assemble your own gluten-free panzanella at your accommodation.

Gluten-Free Panzanella Recipe

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Gluten-Free Panzanella Recipe


  • Author: Candice
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings (main dish), 6 servings (side dish or aperitivo) 1x

Description

An gluten-free take on Italian panzanella that’s perfect as a side dish or main.  It uses fresh, in-season ingredients and it’s perfect on a hot summer day!


Ingredients

Scale

1 cup uncooked quinoa

3/4 lb ripe tomatoes on the vine

1 small cucumber, peeled

1 tropea onion (or small red onion or sweet onion)

handful of fresh basil leaves (reserve a few leaves for garnish)

red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt


Instructions

1.  Cook the quinoa – see Notes below for cooking instructions.  When finished cooking, let cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

2. Thinly slice the onion and soak it in a small bowl of cool water with a splash of vinegar. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, then drain.

3. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes, thinly slice the cucumber, thinly slice the basil, and add to a large bowl.

4. Add the quinoa, onion, oil, a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar, and salt.  Mix with a spoon.  Taste and add more salt, oil, or vinegar if desired.

5. Enjoy immediately at room temperature or let the panzanella ‘rest’ for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.

Notes

Cooking the quinoa.  Rinse the quinoa, then add it and 2 cups of water to a pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook until the liquid has all been cooked off / absorbed by the quinoa.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. 

Drain tomatoes if they have excess liquid.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cuisine: Italian/Mediterranean

Panzanella Variations

Our family sticks to this traditional panzanella recipe, but we know many Italian families that modify it for their tastes.  Some ingredients you may find in panzanella in an Italian household:

ENGLISHITALIANNOTES
CarrotsCaroteShredded
CelerySedanoThinly sliced
RadishesRavanelliThinly sliced
FennelFinocchioThinly sliced
Bell peppersPeperoniChopped
Fava beansFaveWhole; early summer
BeansFagioliWhole
ParsleyPrezzemoloFresh
ChivesErba cippolinaFresh, chopped
OreganoOriganoFresh, chopped
CornMaisWhole
OlivesOliveSliced
GarlicAglioFresh, minced
StrawberriesFragoleSliced
PeachesPescheCubed
Hot dogsWürstelPre-cooked, sliced (check to see if gluten-free)
Foods marinated in oilSottoliJarred or in deli
Foods marinated in vinegarSottacetiJarred or in deli
CapersCapperiWhole
Hard boiled eggsUova sodeSliced
MozzarellaMozzarellaCubed
CheeseFormaggioCubed, or shaved, not soft

What to Eat and Drink with Gluten-Free Panzanella

Make an apericena (aperitivo + cena / dinner) or a picnic spread with other classic summer dishes like:

  • Caprese salad – insalata caprese
  • Prosciutto and cantaloupe – prosciutto e melone
  • Tuscan bean salad – insalata di fagioli
  • Rice salad – insalata di riso
  • Grilled chicken – pollo grigliato

Vino rosato (rosé) and vino bianco (white wine) go well with panzanella.  Kids can drink fresh juice.

Tips for Making Gluten-Free Italian Panzanella

Buy Quality Ingredients

If you’re in Italy, head to a local market for the vegetables instead of the grocery store, if possible. 

If you’re making panzanella outside of Italy, make sure you use ripe tomatoes (they should smell like tomatoes!).  If you can’t find good tomatoes, leave them out or add something else in their place (see the list above for ideas).

Soak the Onions in Water and Vinegar

Pre-soak the sliced onions in water with a splash of vinegar to soften the taste of the onions.

Slice the Basil

Cutting (vs. tearing) the basil helps to release more of the flavor inside the cells, so chop away!

Drain the Tomatoes

If your chopped tomatoes are full of liquid, drain them before you put them in the bowl.  You don’t want the salad to become soggy.

Dress with the Traditional Dressing

Extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  That’s all you need!  No mustard, no bottled dressings.

Making Gluten-Free Panzanella with Kids

It’s an excellent recipe to prepare with little ones because there’s no heat or cooking involved and the instructions are easy to follow. 

A parent should slice the vegetables (for young kids), but children can do everything else.  To make things even simpler, a parent can prepare all of the ingredients and let the child(ren) assemble the dish.

While you’re putting the salad together, you can talk about the concept of in-season foods and how this dish helps prevent food waste.

FAQ

How long does gluten-free panzanella last?
This gluten-free panzanella tastes best if you eat it within a few days. The quinoa holds up well, but vegetables like cucumber will begin to soften.

Does gluten-free panzanella need to be refrigerated?
It will stay fresh if you store it in the refrigerator, but it’s fine to bring it to an outdoor picnic or potluck.  There aren’t any ingredients (like mayonnaise) to worry about at warm temperatures.

Where can I find gluten-free panzanella in Italy?
If you’re in Italy during the warm summer months, you can prepare your own dish. You won’t find it at restaurants, but you can make it in a kitchen at your accommodation.

Can I use cherry tomatoes in place of tomatoes on the vine?
Yes, you can.  The traditional Tuscan recipe uses tomatoes on the vine, but cherry tomatoes are an acceptable substitute.