Fresh Mozzarella, Fried Tomato and Pickled Onion Panzanella

If you think of small towns and corn when you hear about the state of Iowa, you are only partially correct. But here in Des Moines it is filled with young professionals and unique businesses, home to Meredith publishing {Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, etc} and filled to the brim with foodies.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Barilla Interactive Lunch held at Meredith headquarters during Winefest Des Moines. Winefest takes place over a series of days and is filled with events, wine flights and delicious meals.

Chef Edmondo Sarti ran the lunch and since it was interactive, each table cooked their own meals.

My Mom, who attended the event with me made the Mezzi Rigatoni Puttanesca with Spicy Tomato Sauce, Capers and Mixed Olives.

Then came this delicious Branzino with Tomato Broth, Fresh Herbs, Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus.

After lunch we headed out to the beautiful Better Homes and Gardens test garden for Vanilla Panna Cotta with Seasonal Mixed Berries.

These were all very easy and delicious dishes, but my favorite was the Heirloom Tomato Panzanella with Cucumbers and Pickled Onions we had before the main dishes. This is an easy side dish, perfect for entertaining. I wanted to give a little twist to the original by adding a few crunchy fried tomatoes and delicious fresh mozzarella.

Fried Tomato Panzanella with Cucumbers, Pickled Onions and Fresh Mozzarella
adapted from Barilla


  • 1 cup day old bread, diced in 1/2 cubes {a baguette or other crusty bread}
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup tomatoes {I used beautiful red, yellow and green tomatoes sliced in half}
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onions
  • 8 oz container of Bocconcini (or fresh mozzarella, diced)
  • 1/2 cup mini English cucumber, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup aged red vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar
  • Fried Tomato Coating: 1 whisked egg, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal plus 1/2 cup oil for frying.
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place bread cubes in bowl and season with a drizzle of olive oil and toast until brown.
  2. In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients, cover and refrigerate for at least a 1/2 hour. {Leave out 1/2 cup of the tomatoes for frying. You can also leave out the bread if you prefer it more crunchy and add right before serving}
  3. Dredge your remaining tomatoes in egg then the flour mixture. Fry until golden brown. Set aside.
  4. Before serving, give the panzanella a good toss to distribute all of the dressing. Top with the fried tomatoes and fresh basil!


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  1. Emily says

    You could make so many different variations. I’d love to see what you come up with!

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