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Cucina Conversations:Pasta Mollicata (Pasta with Breadcrumbs)

We begin 2018’s Cucina Conversations calendar with the notion of ‘waste not, want not’. The subject here being stale bread or pane raffermo as it is known in Italian; and the endless uses of this staple ingredient found in every kitchen I’m sure.  Many would agree that it should never be thrown out just because it has passed its prime, in fact my nonne considered and mamma still believes that throwing out old bread is sacrilegious due to its religious significance.

One of the best things about bread second to enjoying it freshly baked, is its amazing ability to absorb other flavours and ingredients better when at least a day old. If you are not a big fan of day old bread, the simplest thing you can do with it is to turn it into bread crumbs, so don't throw it out. It has however subsequent thrifty uses and found in many Italian recipes. This month we share a few of those recipes and show you how a simple stale ingredient such as bread can be turned into a delicious meal.

I’ve chosen to make a favourite of mine; a recipe that goes way back in our family called pasta mollicata or in our dialect, pasta ammuddicata.  A typical pasta dish prepared in the Southern regions of Italy namely Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily, that was born out of necessity. Essentially a pasta dish that was created from nothing else found in the cupboard but stale leftover bread brought to life again by toasting in olive oil infused with the flavours of anchovies, garlic, chilli and some herbs.  We traditionally eat this dish on Christmas eve or during Lent. It is a simple recipe that requires minimal preparation and if you are short of time, this is one to keep in mind for any night of the week.  I also make a modified herbivorous version of this pasta without the anchovies, adding different seasonal herbs and lovely with wild fennel fronds. 

Wild fennel or finocchietto selvatico in Italian is quite easy to identify as its liquorice like smell is unmistakable.  It grows in summer and can be eaten raw or cooked. The stalk also looks just like what is attached to a fennel bulb that you would buy at the market.  You can see it growing along railway lines or along the country road side, and if you don't have access to wild fennel, you can substitute it with the fronds of the fennel bulb.

Pasta Mollicata (Pasta with Breadcrumbs)
This recipe make enough for 4 portions.


400 g pasta (spaghetti or bucatini)
5 anchovies in oil (optional)
large bunch of parsley or other fresh herbs of choice
250 g (dried bread crumbs)
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
salt & pepper to taste
250 ml (1 cup) olive oil
pinch of hot chilli flakes

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. I have used spaghetti, as this is how we traditionally prepare this dish, however any pasta of choice will work.

Take a large fry pan and place the anchovies with the olive oil and cook for a few minutes until the anchovies break down and practically dissolve.

Add the breadcrumbs and the crushed garlic and cook over a very low heat, tossing and being very careful not to burn the bread crumbs. Toast the breadcrumbs for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are golden. Add salt, pepper, chilli and chopped parsley and continue to toss. Set aside.

Once the water begins to boil, add the pasta or as papa` would say ‘butta la pasta!’ and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the fry pan with the toasted breadcrumbs you have prepared.   Reserve some of the pasta water and add a few tablespoons. Toss quickly over a low heat, ensuring all strands of pasta have been evenly coated. You can add a grating of your favourite hard cheese if you like when serving. Enjoy!

Check out more of the insights into the uses of stale bread with the other Cucina Conversations’ bloggers: 

Francesca has also utilised bread crumbs in a pasta dish pasta con tonno, pangrattato e limone 
Marialuisa has posted about the classic Italian meatloaf polpettone del recupero 
Lisa will prepare a bruschetta with radicchio 
Flavia takes inspiration from her recent trip to Italy and makes fried artichoke polpette
Rosemarie shares a Piemontese dish of stuffed onions 
Daniela takes us to Lombardy with a cake recipe known as paciarella - torta paesana  


  1. This sounds like an absolutely fantastic way to use up that old bread lying around. I have some dried finochietto from when we were last in Sicily. I'll have to give it a try!

    1. It sure is Lisa. Once considered a poor mans dish, now many include it purely for it's simplicity and taste. The addition of the finocchietto takes it to the next level. Enjoy. Xx

  2. This is one of my favourite dishes ever Carmen. Anchovies are one of my candidates for desert island ingredient, along with onions and lemons. And yes, when you can get your hands on finocchietto selvatico, it's even more amazing. I'm not very religious but I can't help think it's sacrilege to throw out bread either. I just learned from watching my family that it could always be used another time if conserved properly.

    1. I've never given much thought to a desert island ingredient, but like your choices...I would have to add bread or pasta to that list ;) There are so many recipes that use bread and a great topic for CC to research. Xx

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