Asparagus panzanella is a unique springtime take on a traditional summer salad. You’ll love this delightful salad of crisp asparagus, homemade croutons, fresh mint, and feta cheese!
Anyone else ready for spring? I sure am! Already, the robins are returning and the trees are budding, welcome harbingers of spring. The longer days allow an after dinner stroll and it seems as if nature is holding its breath, ready to burst into spring.
Invite spring into your home with this asparagus panzanella salad! Asparagus is an early spring crop, spears slowly emerging from the barren ground, dark green and stately. And it’s oh so tasty and tender. A special treat for sure.
While panzanella is traditionally a summer salad made with ripe red tomatoes, I’m bringing you a panzanella that celebrates spring with green asparagus, fresh green mint leaves, and green parsley. Notice a repetition there? Green, green, green! A color we’ve been missing all winter.
Welcome spring with asparagus panzanella! I promise you won’t miss the tomatoes a bit. Be patient, tomatoes, you’ll get your turn soon.
About this Panzanella Salad
You may be wondering about panzanella. What exactly is it? Traditionally a Tuscan chopped salad, panzanella is made of stale bread chunks, sliced onions, and ripe tomatoes, soaked in a vinegar/olive oil dressing. It’s a thrifty and delicious way to use leftover bread, which may be a little hard and crusty but still perfectly edible, especially when made into a panzanella.
I’ve been making homemade croutons using dry bread for ages – once you try them, you won’t ever go back to store bought croutons. I give the croutons a starring role in this asparagus panzanella. The croutons can be made ahead of time or right before you make the salad. Either way is fine.
The vinaigrette dressing for this salad is also homemade. I like to use red wine vinaigrette which is a breeze to whip up. Make it before you get started on the rest of the salad.
Keep reading for the printable recipe card found at the end of the post. It has complete directions and nutrition information.
Look for a nice fresh bunch of asparagus at the market. It should be crisp and green, not limp or wrinkly. It’s pretty plentiful in the spring and usually on sale. Enjoy it while it’s available, the season is short.
Get a pot of water boiling on the stove and prepare the asparagus. Snap off the woody ends and cut the asparagus spears into bite-sized pieces. Blanch the asparagus in the boiling water briefly. Drain, give it an ice water bath, and drain again.
How to Prep Asparagus
Begin by snapping off the woody ends of the asparagus spears. If you haven’t done this before, simply hold one stalk in your hands and snap off the bottom end where it naturally breaks. Sometimes you’ll snap off a pretty big piece, other times hardly anything. You’ll get a feel for it quickly. Discard the end; it will be woody and tough.
You’re ready to put the salad together! In a large bowl, combine the croutons, asparagus, red onions, mint and parsley leaves, and feta cheese. Pour in the vinaigrette and stir lightly.
Enjoy your spring time asparagus panzanella! My mouth is watering just thinking about this salad.
The answer is yes, but…. Asparagus is just fine eaten raw but most people prefer it lightly cooked so it’s more tender. If you’d like to try it raw, slice it very thinly or shave it into thin ribbons (see the link below for asparagus ribbon salad with beets). Try pickled asparagus, which is raw asparagus in a brine.
Blanch asparagus for approximately three minutes or just until it turns bright green. Thinner stalks will take less time than thick stalks.
Not sure what blanching is? It’s simply scalding foods very briefly in boiling water and immediately immersing them in ice water to stop the cooking. Blanching slightly softens vegetables and enhances their color and flavor.
Make It Your Own
- Panzanella is naturally vegetarian friendly but if you want to make it vegan, omit the feta cheese or use a non-dairy substitute.
- Use a vinaigrette of your choice, either store bought or homemade. Red wine vinaigrette is traditional but feel free to use what you like best.
- Instead of croutons, substitute dry bread, torn or cut into cubes.
If you like to food prep, prepare the components of the panzanella ahead of time. Make the croutons and, after cooling thoroughly, store in a tightly covered container for up to a week. Make the vinaigrette a day ahead and store in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temp before using and shake well. The asparagus could be blanched, chilled, and stored in the refrigerator a day in advance.
Once you mix the salad, it’s best eaten immediately.
If there are leftovers, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for a day. The bread in the salad will be a little softer, possibly a bit mushy, but the taste will be fine.
More spring salads
Welcome spring with more salads! Try one of these delicious recipes:
- Spring Salad with Rosé Vinaigrette, Asparagus, and Grapefruit
- The Best Arugula Salad Recipe
- Spring Orzo Salad with Arugula, Asparagus, and Pine Nuts
- Kale Salad with Avocado and Cumin Lime Dressing
- Asparagus Ribbon Salad with Beets and Burrata
- Citrus Salad with Mint, Honey, and Lime
For the dressing
- 3 tablespoons minced shallot
- 6 tablespoons plus two tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, more to taste
For the salad
- 1 1/2 pounds of asparagus (1 bunch), woody ends trimmed or broken off
- 1/4 large red onion, sliced thinly (see note)
- 20 large mint leaves, torn into small pieces
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- 4 cups homemade croutons
- Dressing: Combine shallots and vinegar in a small jar or bowl; let set for 15 minutes. Add olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, and whisk or shake to combine. Adjust seasonings as needed.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Add asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, or until just tender and bright green. Place in an ice bath to immediately stop cooking and retain vibrant color. Drain well and pat dry.
- In a large bowl, combine asparagus, onions, mint, parsley, feta, and croutons. Mix with vinaigrette, stirring lightly until combined.
- Best served immediately, but can be stored in the fridge for up to one day.
- I soak my onions in ice water before adding them to the salad. It’s optional, but it takes the strength of them down a notch and prevents them from being overwhelming.
- To make this salad vegan, omit the feta cheese or use a non-dairy substitute.
- Instead of red wine vinaigrette, use a dressing of your choice, either store bought or homemade.
- Instead of croutons, you could substitute dry bread, torn or cut into cubes.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.