Tasty Herb Pangrattato is a toasted seasoned breadcrumb mixture that is delicious on everything from steamed white asparagus to baked mac ‘n’ cheese. Use your favourite herbs and spices to customize it to your liking.
There’s nothing like finishing a dish with a tasty topping to get your mouth watering. Add a vibrant Romesco Sauce to roasted cauliflower or steaks or whip up some blender Hollandaise for your next Eggs Benedict Brunch.
Herb Pangrattato on White Asparagus
Simple steamed white asparagus gets a flavour upgrade from tasty golden seasoned herb pangrattato. This is the perfect spring side dish for roasted or grilled meats. Additionally, it’s also wonderful as part of a vegetarian or vegan dinner.
In this flavourful toasted pangrattato, freshly toasted bread crumbs are paired with green herbs, walnuts, and lemon zest. Together, they elevate a simple plate of steamed asparagus in flavour and in texture.
However, the flavour party doesn’t end with steamed vegetables. Try pangrattato on baked mac ‘n’ cheese and casseroles, in meatballs, meatloaf or hamburgers, or as a coating for baked chicken, pork chops, or fish cakes.
What is Pangrattato?
Hey everyone!! Pangrattato is just the Italian word for ‘bread crumbs’. That’s it. Nothing too fancy here, in fact it’s just the opposite. It is said to have originated in Italy as a ‘poor man’s’ substitute for Parmesan Reggiano and used in place of the precious cheese on pasta and vegetables.
In this recipe I am taking simple leftover dried pangrattato, combining it with herbs, walnuts, and some lemon zest to use as a flavour topping. A quick sauté in oil intensifies flavours, resulting in toasted nutty goodness.
Using bread crumbs as a garnish is the ultimate in low key, non fussy cooking. Pangrattato [pan-grat-tà-to] adds extra flavour to simple dishes like plain spaghetti, baked potatoes with cream (think au gratin), and roasted, boiled, or steamed vegetables.
The Many Flavours of Pangrattato
This version of seasoned bread crumbs is as simple as it gets. However, There are many other ways to dress up plain old breadcrumbs and by association, the dishes you use them in.
- add minced garlic (add the garlic and sauté for a bit before adding the breadcrumbs)
- experiment with other herbs such as oregano, basil, and rosemary.
- toss in some sardines or Parmesan Reggiano (yes it is done, though it does sort of contradict the simplicity of the topping)
- substitute the walnuts for hazelnuts, another Italian favourite
- add capers or olives before toasting
- fire it up a bit with some pepper flakes or hot smoked paprika
A Common Leftover Turns Flavour Bomb
Every loaf of bread has a beginning and end. Most often, the crusty bits are what remains after a loaf is consumed. Don’t throw them out! Take these leftovers and turn them into something new and exciting.
To make breadcrumbs, simply allow the crusts of unused bread to dry out fully in a flat tray or brown paper bag. Alternatively, dry them out gradually in a warm oven.
Then, place the bread crusts in a food processor and process them until they are the texture you prefer. Store in an airtight container for future use.
Ingredients for Herb Pangrattato on White Asparagus
- white asparagus
- bread crumbs
- lemon zest
- olive oil
Let’s be honest. White asparagus has a very short season and is often difficult to find. Green asparagus will work just fine. Other vegetables that benefit from a crunchy topping are green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and cabbage. To be honest, any vegetable is great under a layer of bread crumbs.
You can make the bread crumbs yourself as outlined above. However, if your family eats the bread crust, you may need to buy some at the grocery store. They are usually available in the bakery section.
What dish doesn’t benefit from a lemon zest pick me up? A bit of citrus keeps the crumbs from being too rich and brightens up the boring old vegetables below.
Toasting the bread crumbs in butter and olive oil makes them taste a bit nutty and adding walnuts to the mixture emphasizes the nuttiness. Feel free to omit them in case of nut allergies. To make this dish vegan, simply omit the butter and use a bit more olive oil.
Fresh herbs such as chives and parsley really round out the flavour of the bread crumbs while also contributing a fresh element to the dish. Feel free to substitute your favourite fresh herbs in their place.
How to Make Herb Pangrattato
The technique for making pangrattato is simple, though it varies slightly depending on whether or not you are starting with bread or bread crumbs.
To make pangrattato using bread, be sure to dry it out overnight or slowly in a warmed oven (but don’t toast it). Place the dried bread in a food processor and process until the dried bread has a ‘sandy’ texture.
Next, add the walnuts, lemon zest, and herbs and process them until they reach your preferred texture.
If you begin with dried bread crumbs, chop the walnuts, lemon zest, and herbs as fine or as coarse as you like.
Heat the butter (if using) and oil on medium high heat in a sauté pan until it melts, then pour in the crumb mixture. Stir the mixture as it toasts to prevent scorching. Once the crumbs are fragrant and golden, the pangrattato is ready to use on your favourite dish.
Note: Pangrattato usually contains garlic, which is lightly sautéed before adding the breadcrumbs. I omitted it from this recipe mainly because the white asparagus has a delicate flavour and I didn’t want to overpower it.
Where to Use Pangrattato
My mother always topped her boiled cauliflower with toasted golden bread crumbs. Just a little salt and pepper was all that was needed to take this ho-hum veggie to the next level.
Grown up me wants to top everything with Pangrattato. Just think of the possibilities…
- roast up some sausages and onions, then add toasted breadcrumbs for texture & flavour
- baked mac n cheese with even more carbs on top
- potatoes or anything ‘au gratin’. Au gratin refers to breadcrumb topping, cheese topping, or a combination of both
- add it to soft fried or poached eggs and eat with spaghetti
- bake fish in the oven, then add pangrattato during the last five minutes
- broil tomato halves, then top with herb pangrattato
- use it as a topping for simple pasta or risotto
- make a ‘coarse’ pangrattato and use it in a salad aka Panzanella
- use it to thicken soups or stews
- coat fish, pork, mushrooms, or chicken pieces in breadcrumbs before baking or frying in place of panko.
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