When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
When life gives you lemon peels, make a homemade spray cleaner!
And when life gives you stale bread… make French toast!
My point is: recycle. Recycle anything you can. Carrot peels? Celery stalks? Put them all together in the freezer and keep them for a good and nutritious homemade vegetable stock. Stale bread? C’mon, there are so many recipes out there: French toast, bread pudding, meatballs, Italian panzanella… just to mention a few. Leftover spaghetti? Whisk some eggs, add your favourite cheese and them mix all the ingredients together to make a delicious spaghetti omelette.
Seriously, there is no reason to waste food. We just need to pay a bit more attention before, during and after our meals.
Before writing down a few of my favourite recipes with stale bread, here are some simple pieces of advice to generally avoid food waste:
- 1 Be more patient and careful when you go food shopping. Avoid buying on impulse, make a list and try to follow it as much as possible. Of course, we all have cravings now and then, but we really need to start thinking a bit more critically when we’re at the supermarket, especially when it comes to vegetables and fresh fruits. Not all the products have the same shelf life: some of them (like veggies) go bad sooner. If we buy peppers, aubergines, courgettes, broccoli and fennels all at once, then we’re supposed to consume all this food by the end of the week. Can we actually do this? I reccomend to buy less things more often.
- 2 Cook less. Again, same thing: if you cook too much food all at once, you will end up with a big meal which you will either finish up with no joy (which is too bad) or throw away. Cook what you think you really want and need, otherwise you’ll have a lot of leftovers.
- 3 Freeze. I know: freezing can change the taste of some food (not all the times, though), but it’s a good way to keep your meals fresh and safe. Remember to let the food cool down before freezing it.
Now, let’s see a few tasty recipes made with leftover bread.
Stale bread recipes
Bread is one of the main ingredients in our diet. I am a bread lover (and so is my boyfriend) and I buy and consume a good amount of bread every week. Sometimes, if it’s a very high quality bread, I cut it into slices and then freeze it, but most of the times I use it fresh, day by day.
When it starts gettin a little hard on the edges (but it’s still quite soft in the middle), I put it in the oven to make bruschetta (crunchy bread with extra virgin olive oil), but when I have too much bread left, I need to think about new recipes. Nothing easier than that!
1. French toast
I love French toast (in Italy we have a similar recipe from Abruzzo called “pane maritato” – literally, “married bread”), and I like to spread it with honey or some chocolate sauce. In case I don’t have any sweet creams, I only use a mix of sugar and lemon juice.
2. My childhood snack
Also, sometimes, when I feel nostalgic and think back on my childhood, I like to have one of my all time favourite snacks: a slice of bread with water and sugar. It’s a very simple and essential old recipe, typical from Rome (actually, I’m not so sure about that, but it was very popular in my family). My grandma always used to make it when I was a kid (she also used to make bread with olive oil and sugar; I know what you’re thinking, but trust me: it was so good!). She used to take a slice of stale bread, wet with some water to make it softer and a bit of sugar. Simple as that. Simply delicious. I know it may sound boring or quite plain, but it brings me back to old times and familiar atmosphere.
But I mostly use stale bread to make panzanella, a typical Tuscan bread salad. You only need to wet the bread with water, cut it into pieces, mix them together with extra virgin olive oil (a lot of good extra virgin olive oil), tomatoes, basil, salt and some freshly ground black pepper and voila, your panzanella is ready! It’s a typical summer dish, but you can make it in winter with other seasonal vegetables, too.
I love soups. And I adore ribollita, another ancient Tuscan recipe, a tasty and hearty soup made with beans, black cabbage (if you haven’t done it, yet, you really must try it very soon!) and savoy cabbage. And stale bread, of course (again, with a lot of extra virgin olive oil, it goes without saying).
Then, how can I not mention the Tuscan pappa al pomodoro? A symphony of Mediterranean flavours, where fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce and basil (and yes, olive oil, too) meet stale bread and create an amazing creamy soup.
Tuscan traditions aside, there are lots of soup recipes made with stale bread here in Italy, but I also like to create my own by using all the ingredients I have left.
Leaving aside my beloved soups’ world, here is another way to reuse your old bread: make breadballs. Yes, you heard that correctly: breadballs. Tasty, easy to make and suitable for vegetarians, too: breadballs are just like meatballs… without meat. Wet your stale bread, crumble it, mix it with some eggs and grated cheese, add salt and pepper and make a some balls. Cover them with breadcrumbs (again, here is another thing you can make out of stale bread) and then cook them. You could put them in the oven but I prefer to lightly fry them in a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil, and then cook them in tomato sauce, just like real meatballs.
My vegan tip: if you don’t eat cheese, mix the bread with boiled and mashed potatoes. They will give some extra taste and consistency to your breadballs!
6. Bread cake
In England bread pudding is quite popular. Here in Italy, we make bread cake, which is a bit different and looks more like a proper cake. There are many recipes on the web, so I won’t tell you about grams or cups you need to use. In each case, remember that you can personalise your cake with any ingredients you want. I like to add pine nuts, toasted almonds and chocolate chips.
7. Breadcrumbs and bread croutons
Breadcrumbs and bread croutons: two simple, quick and useful products we easily make at home instead of buying them from the shop (in this way, we will also avoid single use plastic packagins). For the breadcrumbs, place the bread slices in the oven, cook them at 120°C (250 degrees F) and then crumble them.
For the croutons – perfect for your soups and salads – cut the bread into pieces and fry the cubes in a saucepan with olive oil. You can also add oregano, thyme or any other herbs for extra taste.
There are so many other ways to reuse stale bread, but these are my favourite ones. What are yours?