A great way to use up the stale end of a crusty loaf, this bread salad is a twist on the traditional Italian panzanella. The classic pesto ingredients of fragrant basil leaves, earthy pine nuts, tangy cheese, and olive oil are deconstructed in this bright and fresh summer salad.
It looks impressive when served as a side with dinner or as a healthy lunch option that can be made ahead. It’s easy to prepare and looks pleasing simply tossed together in a large serving bowl—you don’t need good plating skills for this one.
I’ve used vegan feta in this recipe as I like the extra creaminess it gives, but vegan parmesan shavings would also be delicious. Any olive oil-based dressing can be added, so if you have a favorite recipe then you can put it to use here.
This is best as a warm salad but you can easily prepare all the ingredients beforehand—including the dressing—set them aside to cool and assemble everything just before serving.
Vegan Butternut Squash Pesto Panzanella
- 1/2 small butternut squash (~ 400 g)
- 1/2 vegetable stock cube
- 2 thick slices sourdough bread (can be stale)
- 1 large garlic clove (crushed)
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 20 g pine nuts
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp agave syrup
- 50 ml pickle juice
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 50 g vegan feta
- Small handful fresh basil leaves (finely sliced)
1. Peel and deseed the squash half and thinly slice into crescents about 1/2 cm thick.
2. Prepare a saucepan of boiling water with the stock cube. Add the butternut squash and simmer for 15 minutes until softened. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
3. While the squash cooks, cut up the sourdough into large croutons. Add to a baking tray with the crushed garlic clove and toss with ~ 2 tbsp olive oil until coated.
4. Drain the squash and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the red onion and toss together with some more olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Spread out on a large baking tray.
5. Bake the squash and croutons for 15 minutes, turning halfway through.
6. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts by adding them to a small frying pan on medium-low heat and letting them brown gently, tossing them every couple of minutes so they don’t burn. Once they have browned nicely, take off the heat and set aside to cool.
7. Once cooked, take out both the squash and crouton trays from the oven and leave everything to cool for 5 minutes.
8. Make the dressing by adding the extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, agave, pickle juice, and black pepper to a jug and beating together with a fork.
9. Assemble the salad by adding all the squash, croutons and pine nuts to a large serving bowl. Crumble over the feta in nice chunks, followed by the sliced basil leaves.
10. Pour over the dressing, toss everything together well and it’s ready to serve!
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Photo: Anna Burgoine