5 Italian-Inspired Ways to Use Up Stale Bread

Delicious reasons not to toss that old loaf.

April  2, 2019

Welcome to 30 Days, 30 Ways to Green, where we're sharing all the little (and not so little!) things we do to live eco-friendlier every day. Stick with us all month long for a lineup of handy tips—from composting do's and don'ts to which reusable products really light up our lives.

Ever since my sister-in-law Heather spent a semester in Florence, ribollita—the traditional Tuscan vegetable soup thickened with stale bread—has been one of her go-to dishes. She taught herself how to make it almost immediately upon returning to New York, and for good reason. Hearty and comforting, ribollita couldn’t be simpler to make, and a big batch stretches through the week for one or two people on a tight budget. It epitomizes cucina povera, the barebones cooking style common to rural Italy that makes use of every last crumb or stalk in the cupboard or crisper.

Of course, ribollita is only one of the many ways stale bread is put to good use around the world. Bread pudding is another one—the staler the bread, the better to soak up all of that custardy deliciousness. Panade is yet another. But in the spirit of Heather—and, okay, because I want to make her ribollita this week—here are a handful of Italian-inspired recipes that not only celebrate stale bread (of which I have lots right now) but also resourceful cooking, and eating well, too.

Italian for “reboiled,” ribollita gets its heft from vegetables, beans, and a good dose of stale bread to make it nice and thick.

Meet our springtime take on panzanella, a simple “bread salad” packed with greens, topped with an egg, and drizzled with pesto.

Like a savory French Toast without the egg custard, stale bread is soaked in milk, pan-fried, and topped with mozzarella and anchovy.

Canned tomatoes take center stage in this even simpler Tuscan bread soup. A good drizzle of sage-infused oil brings the whole thing together.

A more classic pancotto (meaning “cooked bread”) leans on the thicker, stew-like side. But this extra-crispy take is for fans of the crunchy bits.

What's your favorite use for stale bread? Share it in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

1 Comment

Tara T. April 16, 2019
Bread pudding. Sweet or savory. Freeze the ends or broken slices until you have enough and voila. It's such a great weekend dish. Savory as a side to roasted meats or vegetables. Or Bread pudding sweetened with honey & nutmeg or molasses, or a sweet lemon sauce.