Watermelon Panzanella

The past days were for living on juices and ice cream, late-night car rides, and losing a couple of kgs by the means of perspiration. The heat wave has hit Milan just like it has hit the rest of Europe and the choice of possible activities got reduced to whining on the couch while sipping on lemonade and studying in the library, a courageous act which I’ve only managed to perform once.

I’m sorry for neglecting my blog, but to post a recipe for ice cubs didn’t quite feel right, nor did the idea of presenting my ranking of most to least refreshing ice cream flavors. What I post today is a result of last night’s hard work, that is, looking for watermelon recipes in all of my cookbooks.

My first choice comes from one of my favorite books, about which I’ve already written in this post. It’s a simple and lazy chopped salad, a luxurious version of panzanella, a Tuscan salad with chunks of stale bread, quite popular in the summer. The traditional recipes were based on onions before the 20th century, which were quite smartly swapped with tomatoes later on. This version asks for the basics, plus cucumber, olives, and the ingredient that makes this worth chewing: watermelon.

I understand that the idea of soggy ciabatta and salty watermelon might not be universally appealing, but the bread goes into the oven first, so it retains its crunchiness even after two hours of marinating, and the vinegar and salt bring out the flavor of the melon, be it ripe or bland.  I’m sure I’ll try other versions of this Italian salad over the summer, just not when I’m in Poland. Dad, you’d hate this one, not only does it have raw onion inside, it also uses all the parts of watermelon you’d normally leave for us (read, all the parts that aren’t the perfect center).

watermelon panzanella, full shot

Watermelon Panzanella

(based on Maria Elia’s recipe from Modern Vegeterian)


(serves 4)


1 cup cherry tomatoes, ripe

1 large cucumber

1½ cup watermelon chunks, seeded

4 small spring onions, white parts only

2 tbsp black olives

for the croutons:

1 ciabatta

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dry basil

pinch salt

for the vinaigrette:

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 handful basil leaves

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch sugar, salt

How to:

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut the ciabatta into 1.5cm cubes, place in a baking tray, add the oil with spices, mix to cover, and roast for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Peel the cucumber, cut lengthwise twice to make quarters, and cut those into 0.5cm chunks. Quarter the tomatoes, then cut the watermelon into 1cm cube. Mix the produce in a large bowl.

Prepare the vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients in a jar and shaking vigorously.

Add the croutons to the chopped veg, pour the contents of the jar on top, mix with your hands. Cover with foil, place in the fridge for roughly one hour to marinate.