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Panzanella di mare is an Italian bread salad with tinned fish. This is a winter panzanella with black kale, squash, beets and sage. It’s versatile, too: You can sub in lots of different vegetables and fish — or leave out the fish altogether.
Keep in mind that panzanella di mare in Italy is normally a classic summer panzanella, where tomatoes and basil play leading roles. It’s late fall here, though, and adapting that summer classic into a winter panzanella seems like the right thing to do.
First things first: A panzanella is, at its core, an Italian bread salad. The reason you make it is because you have stale bread. Yes, you can make panzanella with fresh bread, but why? It’s better stale because the dryer stale bread absorbs the delicious liquids — tomato “water,” olive oil, vinegar, etc. — better than fresh bread does.
So think about making this when you have stale bread, especially good, crusty bread.
Panzanella di Mare
What makes this a panzanella di mare is the presence of fish and/or seafood. In summer, you’ll see lightly sauteed squid (calamari) a lot, but for a winter panzanella, I really like using tinned seafood, especially from Spain.
These are high quality products that you actually enjoy eating. If you’ve ever had the $7.99 “steak special” at some cheapy place, then had a USDA Prime ribeye cooked perfectly, it is the same scale of difference between these high-end tinned fish and what you get at the gas station in Mandan or Lawton or Las Cruces.
I prefer a combination for my panzanella di mare, so here I used good tuna and tiny mackerel. Anything you like will work — just save the olive oil for the salad.
What makes a winter panzanella is, well, winter vegetables. Remember this is at its core a bread salad, so think of things that play well with cubes of stale bread.
I used winter squash, golden beets, black lacinato kale, onions and garlic, and subbed sage for the more traditional basil. Other good options include:
- Radishes or apples for crunch
- Nuts like pecans, walnuts or almonds
- Capers, olives or other nice pickly things
- Jarred roasted red peppers are really good. I almost used them here…
- Other roasted roots like parsnips or turnips or carrots
- Other greens like spinach, turnip greens or dandelion greens
My advice is to keep things fairly simple. Like choose one from each of these categories, or skip a category.
Dressing and Serving
Keep it simple. I just use good olive oil, and lots of it, salt, black pepper, and splashes of vinegar or verjus, which, if you want to serve your panzanella di mare with wine, is a better choice than vinegar.
I love a good winter panzanella as a light lunch, or as the start of a larger meal on weekends, or as a simple dinner when I am busy. Using tinned seafood makes a panzanella di mare a full meal in minutes.
Any panzanella is like a ceviche in that it changes as it ages. When you first make it, the bread will still be sturdy and crunchy in places. I like this a lot, as it makes the panzanella texturally interesting.
But a few hours or a day later, the bread will have soaked up most of the oil and vinegar and juices. It will soften, but become more flavorful. In those cases, I like to add nuts or seeds to the mix so you still have a crunchy element when you eat it; pumpkin or sunflower seeds are ideal.
Either way, panzanella di mare is fun, versatile, healthy and tasty.
If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.
Panzanella di Mare
- 1 pound golden beets
- 1 pound winter squash, butternut, kabocha, acorn, etc.
- Olive oil to coat vegetables
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound lacinato kale, spinach, turnip or dandelion greens, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
- 2 to 4 cups stale bread, cubed
- 4 to 6 ounces canned tuna or other fish, oil reserved
- 1/4 cup sherry, white wine or balsamic vinegar
- black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Trim the tops off the beets. Peel and cube the squash. Coat with olive oil and salt well. Wrap the beets in foil and arrange the squash in one layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, or until each vegetable is tender; beets might take a bit longer than the squash.
- Meanwhile, saute the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and chopped kale. Let this cook until the kale is wilted and soft, maybe 5 minutes. Mix in the sage and turn off the heat.
- When the beets and squash are ready, let them cool a bit before adding them, the onion-kale mix, the bread cubes and the canned fish with its oil to a large bowl. Add black pepper and vinegar to taste. You might want even more olive oil — I do — but that's your call.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.