There is something so appealing about seeing vegetables oven roasted and topped with a crisp topping of homemade breadcrumbs, a little grated cheese, some seasonings, and fresh herbs. I do not mean those sawdust dry breadcrumbs that are made in factories that are ground so finely that you could never even tell they might have come from an actual loaf of bread. Nope, I am talking about coarse crumbs made from grinding leftover slices of crusty bread at home and adding your own fresh seasonings. I know I can be a nag when we are talking about breadcrumbs, but I honestly feel very strongly about this subject. Yes, I know there are more important world matters that should occupy my thoughts, but after discovering the joy of freshly ground and seasoned breadcrumbs just a few years ago myself I feel I need to share this simple discovery and get you to try them as well.
Yes, I really am discussing breadcrumbs here! Italian cuisine is all about using the best ingredients, and keeping things simple. Lightly brush some ripe, juicy tomatoes with olive oil, then sprinkle on some delicious lightly seasoned homemade breadcrumbs and slow roast them and you have a memorable dish. Top them with store bought dried crumbs and it is frankly a whole different story.
It really is so simple to make your own breadcrumbs and once you start doing so, I promise you will never go back to store bought ones. You do however need a food processor or blender to create the type of crumbs I do. I simply take any leftover, day old crusty bread slices and cut them into 1 1/2 inch cubes and store them in my freezer. When I need breadcrumbs for a recipe I simply throw the bread cubes into my food processor with a garlic cloves, a little salt, pepper, dash of dried Italian seasonings, some lemon zest, and half a red chile pepper. I process this until I have coarse crumbs and then throw in some grated cheese, a 1/4 cup or so of toasted pine nuts, and a small bunch of fresh parsley. Pulse again just until the parsley is finely ground (you do not want green crumbs) and you have delicious crumbs that are perfect for breading chicken, pork chops, or topping roasted vegetables as shown in the photo above. You can also throw these crumbs (preferably without cheese) into a frying pan with a little olive oil and cook until lightly browned. These are amazing sprinkled on top of simple pasta dishes such as Spaghetti With Garlic, Oil & Hot Pepper, or a simple pasta with Oven Roasted Tomatoes…….DELICIOUS! These crumbs hold up really well as a coating for any type of meat or seafood I have tried them on and the chopped pine nuts in them add a delicious extra crunch. Try them, and I bet I can convert you to regularly making your own homemade breadcrumbs as well!
3 to 4 Cups Day Old Crusty Bread Cubes (1 1/2 Inch)
1 to 2 Peeled Garlic Cloves
Salt & Pepper To Taste
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Italian Seasonings
1/2 Fresh (Or Dried) Red Chile Pepper (Optional)
Zest From 1 Lemon
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts
1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves
Add the bread cubes, garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, lemon zest and chile pepper into a food processor and blend until you have coarse crumbs as shown in photo below. Add the cheese, parsley, and pine nuts and pulse just until the parsley is finely chopped. You can use these crumbs to bread meat, or add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and use a topping for roasted vegetables. Store unused portion in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Simple seasoned homemade breadcrumbs.
Homemade breadcrumbs really make dishes like this chicken one come to life!
Deborah Mele 2011