Pan Bagnat is one of my favourite picnic foods. Translating to “bathed bread”, it is also known as a Picnic Loaf. Best prepared a day ahead, the process of making Pan Bagnat is simple. A loaf of bread is hollowed, layered with fillings, and pressed with a few jars in the fridge overnight. Healthy, simple, and convenient, this meal is a winner even with the fussiest eaters.
Coming from the French region of Provence, Pan Bagnat is traditionally made by filling stale bread with Salad Niçoise, which would soak up the juices and soften the bread. Typical fillings include tuna, tomatoes, olives, hard-boiled eggs, anchovy, red onion, and olive oil. As tuna is the main ingredient, it is also referred to as the French Tuna Sandwich, especially if fresh bread is used and the sandwich is not pressed.
types of bread suitable for pan bagnat
Different types of bread can be used to make Pan Bagnat. Sourdough loaves, bread rolls, and baguettes are the traditional choices, with crusty loaves preferable to avoid sogginess. This is a great way to use up a stale sourdough loaf.
If using a loaf of bread, it is best to stuff and press it ahead, as this will make it easier to cut into slices without it falling apart. On the other hand, bread rolls are great for single portions and make an excellent lunchbox item.
Each time I make Pan Bagnat, I change the recipe depending on what ingredients are in season and what I have on hand. Sometimes it’s the traditional salade niçoise filling, but most of the time I go for my own variations.
Here are some suggestions, but the combinations are endless depending on your preferences, the season, what’s growing in the garden, or simply what ingredients you have on hand:
Traditional salade niçoise filling: canned tuna (in olive oil is best), red onion, hard-boiled egg slices, fresh or roasted capsicum, sliced tomato, anchovy fillets, vinaigrette, parsley, salt, pepper.
Summer BBQ leftovers: roasted summer veggies like eggplant, capsicum, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, sliced barbequed meat, tapenade, sauces or dips to layer in between, herbs.
Italian flavours: Fresh sliced cucumber, sundried tomato, lettuce leaves, salami or other sliced cold meats, basil pesto, mozzarella cheese or other cheese, garlic-infused olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh basil leaves. (see photo below).
Vegetarian: roasted pumpkin, zucchini and eggplants, green beans, shredded carrots, beetroot slices, cucumber, garlic, eggs… Possibilities are endless.
Tips for making a great pan bagnat
- The key to success when making Pan Bagnat is for the layers to stick. For that you need juices from the salad, olive oil, pesto, olive tapenade, vinegar, etc.
- Prepare enough ingredients to fill the hollowed bread. Go above the rim especially if the lid is scooped out.
- Left-over barbequed veggies are great. If dried out, marinate them in olive oil and garlic.
- Cool any freshly grilled or cooked ingredients before filling the bread.
- The more colourful the fillings are, the more attractive the Pan Bagnat looks: we eat using our eyes too. Layer contrasting colours interchangebly.
- Utilise the scooped out soft bread by making make breadcrumbs or Panzanella (Italian bread salad).
Pan Bagnat can be served cold on a hot summer day directly from the fridge, at room temperature when out and about, or even grilled in a sandwich press or heated in the oven before eating. If grilling, baguettes and bread rolls are best, and adding mozzarella or other melting cheeses will make the Pan Bagnat even more delicious.
- 1 round sourdough loaf
- 1 large can tuna in olive oil
- 4-5 sliced tomatoes
- 4-5 roasted sliced capsicum (pepper)
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 2-3 sliced hard boiled eggs
- ¾ cup olives
- 3-4 anchovy fillets
- 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
- salt, pepper, vinegar to taste
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- Toss sliced fresh or grilled vegetables, onions, olives and anchovies in half of the olive oil, vinegar, then season with salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Set aside.
- Cut the top third of the bread. Scoop out the soft middle part leaving 2-3 cm wall.
- Drizzle the remaining olive oil inside the hollowed-out loaf and on the lid.
- Layer the fillings alternating colours and ingredients, until just above the rim.
- Replace the lid and wrap the loaf in beeswax or plastic wrap.
- Transfer the pan bagnat to a tray and place another tray on the top.
- Weigh the top tray with a few jars and set it aside in the fridge for a few hours or best overnight.