Cacio e Pepe Panzanella

Lately in all this hot weather, I’ve been craving salads for dinner– anything else feels too heavy– but even salads have to have some heft to them in order to feel satisfying. Enter the panzanella: a salad that’s a good 30-40% homemade crouton, which (let’s face it) is often the very best part.

This salad from Food52 has it all– freshly-toasted croutons tossed in a cheesy, peppery dressing (hence the “cacio e pepe” moniker), sweet corn, tangy tomatoes, and a nice big ball of burrata to bring it all together and make it feel indulgent. I’ve made it twice already and foresee eating this a lot this summer, even if it does involve turning on my oven in this weather!

Cacio e Pepe Panzanella (from Food52.com)

Serves 4 (3 very generously)

Cacio e Pepe Dressing (the important part)

  • 3/4 cup (65 grams) finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (you can use the stuff in the green can, I won’t tell)
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Salad

  • 10 ounces crusty bread (like ciabatta or a baguette), torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears of corn)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups to 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, small leaves left whole, or large leaves roughly torn
  • 8 ounces burrata
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • First, make your dressing. Put your grated cheese into a large bowl (the bowl you’re going to serve this giant salad in), and whisk in the boiling water until the cheese is melted smooth. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified, then add in the pepper. (Note: if your cheese seizes up into clumps, you may need to try an immersion blender to smooth everything out– it happened once to me and the blender fixed everything). Pour out about 1/4 cup of the dressing into a cup or ramekin for later, leaving the rest in the bowl.
  • Add your bread and corn into the salad bowl and toss until coated with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spread the bread and corn onto a large baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, and place in a cold oven. Set oven to 375 degrees F and wait for it to come up to temperature so it slowly heats the bread.
  • In the meantime, put your tomatoes, arugula, and basil into the salad bowl with a good pinch of salt, and toss to combine.
  • Once your oven is up to 375, stir the bread and corn a bit. The bread should be starting to crisp around the edges. Let it continue to bake for a few more minutes until it starts to turn golden, then remove from the oven.
  • Let the bread and corn cool for just a few minutes, then add back in to your salad bowl along with the reserved dressing to taste. Toss to combine.
  • Top with burrata and serve immediately.

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