Panzanella is a mainstay on the summer menu at Ruffino’s restaurant, the Locanda. We write it with a capital letter and without worrying about overpraising the dish: Panzanella is a triumph of the land and the kitchen, bright and joyful in the hotter months.
The aromas grab your attention, coming first from the strong smell of the onions, followed by the fresh basil and sweet tomatoes, the glossy cucumber and moist unsalted bread, which binds it all together. Panzanella is a centuries-old dish, which was created, as often happened, to use up stale bread and leftover vegetables. Food archaeologists have traced it to Boccaccio, back in the fourteenth century, identifying it with pan lavato. Pan bagnato, pan molle, pansanella or panmòllo, and perhaps also zanella, to remember the bowl in which farmers used to dampen the bread before mixing it with bits of vegetables, cucumber and onion, as well as anything else that passed by the monastery.
The fact that Panzanella is still a miracle of rustic enjoyment is because it is balanced between firmness and courtesy: the onion is little more than an idea, the cucumber is phenomenally subtle, the tomatoes are ripe and rich, the bread’s top quality and the oil exquisite. But the main ingredient in this offering that’s still hard to call a recipe, given its sobering and austere character, is the measure. No aroma dominates over the others; it’s all a glorious accomplishment.
La Panzanella at Le Tre Rane has become a custom, which shines with its own unique light paired with a glass of enjoyably refreshing Sangiovese under the summer bower.