With compliments to the Italians, panzanella is the original budget meal. The O.G. Sui generis. Some stale bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and tomatoes and basil from the garden, and you’ve got yourself dinner. Provided you made your own bread or are using a loaf that otherwise would’ve been thrown out (and have tomatoes and basil in your garden), it shouldn’t cost more than 25 cents or so a serving. And it’s still tasty even after it’s sat for a while, making it an excellent side or potluck dish.
As below, it makes about 4 servings. Low-seed heirloom tomatoes (I used pineapple tomatoes) are great for this, but any kind you have on hand will do.
• 1 medium loaf country or sourdough bread, torn into enough chunks to cover a large baking sheet (a no-knead loaf is perfect for this): 30 cents
• About 1 cup basil leaves, shredded or torn (garden): $0
• About 4-5 large tomatoes, chopped (garden): $0
• Handful of cherry or small pear tomatoes, halved (optional) (garden): $0
• 3-4 large cloves garlic, chopped (garden): $0
• 3 T olive oil: 18 cents
• A few glugs of balsamic vinegar: 20 cents
• Salt and pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: 70 cents/4 = 18 cents/serving
If your bread isn’t already stale, as mine wasn’t, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Tear the bread into roughly bite-sized chunks and spread on a cookie sheet.
Toast until slightly hardened.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper, and cook for a minute or two to release a little bit of the tomato juices. Remove from the heat. When the bread cubes are done, toss them in with the basil and stir to coat. Each piece of bread should soak up some olive oil and tomato juices but still stay firm in some places. Throw in a few glugs of balsamic vinegar and stir a couple more times to distribute. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve.