I decided I wanted to make panzanella, so I started doing some research. There are many different interpretations of what a panzanella is, but one thing is clear: it's a salad, not a soup. This soup is not the only panzanella soup recipe out there, but to be honest I didn't like any of the panzanella soup recipes I saw. To me, they all missed the main point: to give you the flavors and the textures of a panzanella salad. All of them seem to blend all the ingredients together, or use them in proportions that to me didn't represent a panzanella salad correctly. At least one threw everything into a blender, heated it up, and called it a soup. To me, this also misses basic soup building etiquette: I always start by sautéing the onions.
So, I decided to use panzanella salad recipes as the basis for this recipe. I used proportions that were exactly what you'd expect if you made this into a salad. In fact. I expect that I will use the same ingredient list, more or less, when I do decide to make a salad. To achieve the salad-soup fusion, I:
- Added mozzarella chunks toward the end so they'd be melty but still recognizable. Mozzarella isn't necessarily integral to a traditional panzanella, but I like what it adds.
- Chopped up fresh basil and added it at the end.
- Toasted chopped up hamburger buns to make the croutons.
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, various kinds if possible
28 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 handful fresh basil
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon capers, diced
4 cups vegetable stock
6 ounces of mozzarella, cut into chunks
4 hamburger buns, different kinds if possible
kosher salt, adjusted to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place fresh tomatoes in water for about a minute. Remove the tomatoes and place in an ice water bath. Transfer to a clean bowl. The skin should be blistered and easy to peel. If not, score the skin. Peel skin off. Squeeze any juices out of the skin into the bowl. Chop tomatoes into chunks and set aside, but keep the residual juices in the bowl.
3. Cut hamburger buns into chunks.
4. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bowl with the tomato juices, stirring to incorporate. Toss the chunks to coat.
5. Spread hamburger bun chunks out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until slightly crispy.
6. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Sauté onions until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir continuously for a minute to prevent burning. Add fresh tomato chunks to the pot and stir thoroughly to combine. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Add San Marzano tomatoes and chopped capers. Stir in Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Add vegetable stock. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes with the lid off.
8. Puree contents of the pot in a blender, then return to the pot. Check seasoning, and add salt as needed. Chop most of the basil, but save the prettiest leaves as a fancy pants garnish when serving. Add chopped basil and mozzarella chunks to the pot. Heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes...enough to soften the mozzarella.
9. Pour the soup into a bowl. Add a handful of toasted bun croutons, and garnish with a basil leaf.