Skip to main content

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


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Panzerotti /Tortelli di Castagne & Cioccolato (Chestnut & chocolate filled morsels)

When I think of chestnuts, I reminisce about my birth town - Domodossola, where I was first introduced to this distinctive flavoured nut.  We were fortunate to live close to Sacro Monte Calvario, a mountain lined with chestnut trees. My mother cooked many dishes which used this flavorsome nut, especially sweets such as these panzerotti di castagne & cioccolato.  Withthis sweet mamma has more recently substituted the chestnut filling with chickpeas as they are readily available all year round and knowing that my papa`enjoys this sweetmade frequently.

Chestnut season is a favourite for our whole family and we are of the belief that if you've never had a freshly roasted chestnut you haven't lived. We often visit Daylesford in country Victoria around autumn to purchase them fresh and enjoy them roasted at the farmers markets.

This recipe is a variation of panzerotti / tortelli di ceci which I have shared previously with you.  The filling is more delicate in texture and lighter t…

Torta di Cachi e Noci (Persimmon & Walnut Cake)

We have had a bountiful season of cachi (persimmons) this year, as every other year.  My parents persimmon tree yields a beautiful vanilla variety, the non-astringent with hard flesh that can be eaten like an apple, known as the Fuyu. Every season begins with much excitement and many bags are given to family and friends.  Even so, we still manage to freeze a few when they become too ripe. When soft, they are great in smoothies, making sorbet, ice-cream and of course baking with.  I however have never baked with them, always preferring to eat them as a fruit paired off with walnuts or sliced with oranges to counterbalance their sweetness.  

What prompted me to photograph these persimmons and make this cake was seeing the very talented Sarah Schembri through her instagram account displaying some persimmons on a very very beautiful plate she had just made. I must confess that the desire to own the plate came well before that of wanting to make a rustic persimmon cake...such is my weakness…

Zucchini Blossoms - Baked Mini Frittate

Happy New Year!  Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2017.

I trust we are still recovering from all the festivities and indulgences that come with this time of year. Cooking and food is probably the last thing on our minds right now, but being summer here in Australia, most of us are looking forward to some down time with easy healthy summer meals to tuck into and what better way than with seasonal zucchini blossoms. My new year begins with a haul of summer produce from my parents garden that has flourished with this crazy Melbourne climate.  For those who live or just recently visited this beautiful city have experienced the dramatic weather changes, which have included torrential rain and somewhat balmy weather conditions - perfect for the garden. As my vegetable patch is quite small, so I limit it to a range of herbs, with only a few seasonal vegetables.  My cherry tomatoes are growing and the capsicum plants are getting taller by the day.  My parents on the other hand plant a large…