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Giada says Italians like to use breadcrumbs instead of parmesan. Recipe examples?

Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian is on the in the background.
I hear Giada say:
"Italians like to use breadcrumbs instead of parmesan so you toss it with pasta it gives you sort of that same salty, um, 'bite' and that little bit of crunch without using parmesan cheese."

I ran to the remote and rewound.
Although I love pasta, 面, noodles, pick your cuisine, I barely know anything about ~genuine~ Italian food or ~authentic~ Italian American food
AND I am a lover of all things sauces...
so, 'Hounds, tell me about this totally "new to me" technique?

Here's the recipe in question: http://bit.ly/G1ADAbr32dcrumb

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  1. My understanding is that they were used (at least in the Naples area where my family came from) when you couldn't afford parmesan, especially in aglio/olio preps where they'd soak up the flavor. Frugal way to use up stale bread and add some bulk to the dish. I don't know if it's a like so much as a substitute due to necessity. When they came over here, got jobs, were working, etc, my aunts used parm or romano.

    1. Toasted Bread Crumb, used as a topping for texture, is very popular in certain regions of Italy but, does not replace parm, and not just for pasta. She's delirious.

      1. Don't know how authentic it is, but I do know toasted breadcrumbs on certain pasta dishes is delicious.

          1. Pasta with Breadcrumbs is a traditional dish to celebrate St. Joseph's Day, which is 19 March. The following recipe is as good as any. Note that homemade breadcrumbs are far better than store bought.

            The wide macaroni represents the lumber Joseph used in his carpenter shop and breadcrumbs represent saw dust.

            For myself, I usually make an aglio oilo with anchovies and crushed red pepper and my own seasoned breadcrumbs. I have no idea where Giada got her idea about preferring crumbs.

            1. My recollection is that toasted seasoned breadcrumbs are often used to top seafood pasta dishes.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Bkeats

                That too. However there are native Italians who use grated cheese with seafood dishes. Yes there are.

              2. OH, people!

                She's stirring breadcrumbs INTO the pasta and then practically soaking it with oil to make a sauce.


                I've made a million casseroles (well... thousands maybe) and I fully understand the bread crumb topping concept.
                When teaching TeenHound and CollegeHound to cook, before topping with cheese/ breadcrumbs/ chips, the question was "does it sound like a casserole"--there's a particular sloshy sound. If not, they needed to add more liquid-type ingredients. If too thin, then stir in some of that topping, add some veg or starch.

                1. A classic topping in the south and Sicily--toasted breadcumbs topping pasta with vegetables, or just oil and garlic or even anchovies or some other non-tomato-cheese sauce. Sometimes, but not always, a substitute for grated cheese, and then usually pecorino, not parmigiano. If you're making, say, pasta with broccoli or broccoli rabe, or anchovies and garlic, then some coarse crumbs quickly tossed in oil and topped at the end offer a nice contrast. But, no, it's not universal, and in Italy, it's really hard to talk about "Italians" as a whole eating group. BTW, the term "ca' muddica" or "con mollica" in Sicily and Calabria designates a pasta finished with crumbs.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bob96

                    Not a topping.
                    A 5 ingredient dish: rigatoni, crushed-into-crumbs flavoured croutons, almonds (also pulverized), olive oil, sliced roasted red peppers.


                    <<Place the croutons and the almonds in a food processor. Pulse until it becomes the texture of bread crumbs. Add the crouton and almond mixture to the hot pasta. Add the peppers and the olive oil. Toss to combine and serve.>>

                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                      I'm not saying genuine or authentically Italian, but this Bittman NY Times pasta recipe comes to mind (and I suspect is one of his more popular ones) -- and bread crumbs are not a topping here, Kris. He mentions something about southern Italian cooking inspiring it. FWIW.


                      1. re: mselectra

                        I'm just awaiting an Italian-American food historian, who'll come along and educate us all : )

                        1. re: Kris in Beijing

                          Yep, I'm with you (and "food" and "history" being two of my favorite things, and adding "Italian-American" all the better) .

                          Just to counter all the bread crumbs as topping posts, thought I'd point out it's not exactly an unknown technique to mix them in ;)

                          1. re: Kris in Beijing

                            I'm not Italian, nor a food historian (though I do have a history degree and love food history!), but many of the medieval recipes I have seen use bread crumbs as a thickener for stews and sauces. And some of those recipes originated in Italy. One in particular calls for bread crumbs to be boiled in honey, with ground ginger and black pepper. These can then be rolled into balls and served as a sweet, or used to thicken and flavor meat stews.

                            Bread crumbs not only used up stale bread, but they also made a substitute for dairy ingredients, which weren't allowed during some of the Catholic church's innumerable and required fast days. From what I can gather, Lent in the Middle Ages absolutely sucked.

                    2. i'll put breadcrumbs OR parmesan wherever Giada wants me to

                      1. Not sure why this comes across as so weird. I have been eating this since i was a little kid. Breadcrumbs crisped up in butter/olive oil and garlic tossed with pasta. Sometimes with anchovies. Tossed with the pasta they remain crunchy.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: MVNYC

                          NOt "weird," I just wanted breadcrumbs-FOR-cheese recipes and stories of Italian food.
                          Not Giada Gushing, so much.


                          ETA: breadcrumbs-FOR-cheese IN recipes, not as a topping : ).

                          1. re: Kris in Beijing

                            Questioning the word of Giada unleashes the hounds from hell.
                            If she says breadcrumbs, the correct answer is breadcrumbs.

                        2. There are several recipes in the books "Naples at Table" and "The Southern Italian Table" both by Arthur Schwartz (yes, I know, but apparently he's studied the food there and the recipes in both books are quite good and true to what I ate in Naples) that use oil toasted bread crumbs instead of grated cheese for topping pasta. In every restaurant we ate at in Naples the bread was quite salty and hard, so I think bread crumbs made from it would make sense as a parmesan cheese substitute.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: AmyH

                            Arthur is a reliable authority.

                            1. re: mbfant

                              His recipes are fantastic. Every one I've tried has been great.

                          2. It is totally misleading to say "Italians" consider breadcrumbs an acceptable substitute for parmigiano. That is just crazy. However, in parts of southern Italy, where, believe it or not, parmigiano has been widely used only since the second half of the twentieth century, toasted breadcrumbs are used as a pasta condiment. In "Sauces & Shapes" we have a recipe for pasta "ammudicata" (con la mollica in proper Italian), with anchovies and breadcrumbs, but they are also used in pasta con le sarde and many other recipes.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: mbfant

                              Thanks, Maureen, for echoing my post above. Agree completely. My own Calabrese-in-America tradition included a big box of homemade dried crumbs, ready for coatings and for sprinkling (as "muddica") on lots of pasta, including our Christmas eve anchovy-garlic-oil-pepe rosso-linguine.

                              1. re: bob96

                                Here's our recipe for Pasta "ammuddicata"

                                For the condimento:
                                ¾ cup (180 milliliters) extra virgin olive oil
                                4 salt-packed anchovies, cleaned and coarsely chopped
                                About 2 cups (100 grams) crumbs made from day-old country-style bread

                                To make the dish:
                                1 pound (450 grams) spaghetti
                                2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, about 16 sprigs
                                1 level tablespoon ground black pepper

                                Put 5 quarts (5 liters) of water on to boil in an 8-quart (8-liter) pot over high heat.
                                Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-low heat for a minute and then add the anchovies. mash them gently with a fork until they disintegrate, about 2 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs.
                                Raise the heat to medium high and fry the breadcrumbs, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until they turn golden brown. Remove from the heat, cover, and keep warm.
                                When the water boils, add 3 tablespoons kosher salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
                                Warm a serving bowl or platter in a low oven. If the oven is not practical, warm the bowl just before use with hot water, even a ladleful of the pasta cooking water.
                                Drain the pasta and transfer it to the warm serving bowl. Add the anchovies and breadcrumbs and toss well. Sprinkle with the parsley and the pepper. Serve immediately.

                                (From "Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way")

                                1. re: mbfant

                                  That'd be how much 'chovie by weight?

                                  1. re: mbfant

                                    This is it. Also a welcoming condimento for pasta with cauliflower, broccoli, or broccoli rabe. Wish I had access to salt-packed alici, though. I always drain the can's oil and replace with fresh extra virgin, too.

                                    1. re: mbfant

                                      Where do you get salt packed anchovies? Arthur Schwartz calls for them, too. We have many Italian food stores here and nobody sells them.

                                      1. re: AmyH

                                        They are becoming more and more available and can be ordered online. In a pinch, use oil-packed.

                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                            Thanks, but the reviews on those are quite mixed. It sounds like for some purchasers they were truly packed in salt but others describe them as being packed in liquid or oil. I assumed they'd be dry and in salt like the salted capers I've been buying. I think I'll have to have a serious discussion with the guys at the Italian market and see if they can get me some (especially for less than $23 per can).

                                    2. re: mbfant

                                      When I make my garlic and anchovy pasta, I toast the breadcrumbs with olive oil and also the oil from the jar of anchovies. Then the anchovies themselves go in the "sauce". We do love our alice!

                                      1. re: coll

                                        The trouble is that is not usually very good-quality oil. Plus it's been sitting for who-knows-how-long in a glass jar exposed to light and deteriorating. I used to use it but have stopped. In my next evolutionary phase, I will probably drain it off entirely and replace it with my own extra virgin olive oil.

                                          1. re: mbfant

                                            Luckily I use a cup of good olive oil and only just a drizzle of anchovy oil. More for good luck than anything!

                                            1. re: coll

                                              I like the idea of replacing what comes in the jar with good oil.

                                      2. nonetheless, i am making anchovy garlic breadcrumbs pasta this weekend with Giada's pasta I still have, bread crumb made from Balthazar bakery bread and a jar of Italian anchovies i have somewhere in my pantry.

                                        1. I really liked Giada's cooking shows way back when. She was young, upbeat and a breath of fresh air to the FN. But she lost me along the way when she turned into one of those act phony judges for ratings on the competition shows.

                                          And then her pushy behavior on the last Thanksgiving Live showed her true colors.

                                          No jealously on my part. She is a very attractive woman.

                                          But I do find her on air personality "unattractive".

                                          1. i have a friend (who is chinese) that insists lemon chicken is not chinese food
                                            after which he proceeds to put soy sauce on his rice
                                            i tell him it's not chinese to do that
                                            he says, "i'm chinese, so that makes it chinese to do this"

                                            1. Hi! I'm writing from Turin, in Piemonte (NW Italy). Here we have many different local cuisines, each region has different recipes and preparations.
                                              In Piemonte we are used to eat a specific kind of pasta called "tajarin", made using "a lot" of eggs in the dough and for tradition cutted with a knife.
                                              In Italy we often use cheese over pasta, even in the North Italy. Parmesan is a cheese very common here, but each kind of recipe in the Italian tradition need different cheese or specific "topping".
                                              Therefore there are recipes that "want", for tradition, breadcrumbs over pasta. They are mainly from the South regions, and one of the typical one is pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs.
                                              This is a kind of topping solutions that really like to vegan and there are many recipes in Italian veg forums and food blog that use breadcrumbs instead of parmesan. But always breadcrumbs is cooked (sautéed with oil or similar).
                                              When you enter in a restaurant in Italy and ask for pasta, they will serve it placing in the center of the table a little bowl with parmesan (not breadcrumbs) and a tablespoon to self add it on the "whatever" pasta you have ordered (except in the case of pasta with fish or mussels).
                                              At home is the same, we add cheese, mainly parmesan, but even salted ricotta cheese, or pecorino (we have a lot of kind of pecorino).

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: milkhoneyandrum

                                                Elisa, you have made me hungry for tajarin! con burro di malga!

                                                You make two really important points. One is that different cheeses are used in different places. Parmigiano has taken over and displaced many local cheeses, but it is not traditional everywhere. The other is that fried breadcrumbs belong to a southern tradition and specific dishes.

                                                1. re: mbfant

                                                  Do not hate me...but what about adding some white truffles over the tajarin with Alpine hut butter? Ok, now I'm mouthwatering too!
                                                  How about Rome? Do you have some "breadcrumbs" pasta recipes that I ignore?

                                                  1. re: milkhoneyandrum

                                                    Perfect use for white truffles. I don't know of any specifically Roman breadcrumb recipes. They tend to be from farther south.

                                              2. Kris....
                                                I'm not Italian. I love Italian food. Because we have a kosher kitchen, I can't use cheese in Italian recipes that have meat.
                                                Older brother's wife is Jewish/Italian her parents were born and raised in Rome and came to the US in 1937. SIL's mother always substituted toasted bread crumbs for parmigian in recipes made with meat. Said she learned this from the housemaid/cook they had in Rome who came from Naples.

                                                1. I have Giada's "Everyday Italian" cookbook and this is the only recipe I could find that uses bread crumbs as a topping. No mention of it being a cheese substitute.


                                                  1. Folks, we removed a lot of off-topic stuff about what Giada looks like from this thread. Please keep the focus on using breadcrumbs in place of parmesan cheese, not on Giada's appearance.

                                                    1. Giada is an idiot. She makes all kinds of generalizations about Italian food. One of my favorite episodes than I've seen is when her aunt looked on in horror as she added meatballs to carbonara. "But then it's not carbonara," the aunt said, protesting. But Giada didn't care. She does whatever comes into her head, and sells it as authentic Italian food.

                                                      As I understand it, breadcrumbs are part of cucina povera -- the cooking of poor people. My father's family was from Sicily, and my mother's from Salerno, so breadcrumbs did make frequent appearances on pasta -- and other dishes -- at our table. They were never used together with cheese, and parmigiana was a rare thing since Romano is much more common in southern Italy.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                        So a person who graduated from UCLA with a degree in anthropology, studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, worked at the Ritz-Carlton Fine Dining Room, worked under Wolfgang Puck at Spago, has won an Emmy, and is a best selling author can be defined as an "idiot"?

                                                        How do you define success?

                                                        BTW: A simple google search of "carbonara with meatballs" reveals that Giada is hardly the first person to add meatballs to carbonara.

                                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                                          <So a person who graduated from UCLA with a degree in anthropology, studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, worked at the Ritz-Carlton Fine Dining Room, worked under Wolfgang Puck at Spago, has won an Emmy, and is a best selling author can be defined as an "idiot"?>

                                                          We can all be an idiot one point of another, right?

                                                          I am sure that plenty of people out there have called Einestin or Heinsenberg an idiot as well.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            And those people that called Einstein an idiot were wrong and history has proven as much.

                                                            I forgot to mention that Giada is an active philanthropist helping to raise over $9 million in nine years for the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program. Quite the useful idiot.

                                                      2. We often add fried breadcrumbs to pasta for the crunch. But we found the best were not actually "crumbs" but day old Italian bread chopped into small, irregularly shaped pieces so you get different textures. Had it last night on zucchini and penne and it was the finishing touch.

                                                        1. Hi Kris -

                                                          100 g of fresh breadcrumbs seasoned with garlic, Italian parsley, and olive oil.

                                                          " TONNO ALLA BRACE CON MOLLICA " or Grilled fresh Tuna with breadcrumbs.

                                                          Origin: Sicily

                                                          " This is a typical recipe from Sicily, where Swordfish is sometimes used instead of Tuna.

                                                          The breadcrumb mixture (called MUDDICA locally) is very common in Sicilian cooking and can be rubbed between the hands to make little pellets like couscous.

                                                          The breadcrumb pellets can then be used as replacement for Parmesan on certain types of pasta ( thus explaining why it is often referred to as " the poor mans Parmesan ! ) "

                                                          - from the book " Two Greedy Italians " by Caluccio/Contaldo, page 105

                                                          Mix the breadcrumb mixture by hand, season the Tuna, roll in the breadcrumbs, and grill until the breadcrumbs are brown and crispy. Serve with lemon wedges, and a light salad.

                                                          9 Replies
                                                            1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                              What else is mixed in with the bread crumbs?

                                                              1. re: AmyH

                                                                Afternoon Amy -

                                                                Salt, Pepper, and combinations of:

                                                                We find the better the bread, such as homemade, the better the breadcrumb mix. There is seasoned breadcrumb available here, but we don't use it, preferring our own.

                                                                1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                                  Thanks Swissaire! Are the onion and celery minced fresh?

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Hi Oliver-


                                                                      There are other herbs like Tarragon that are good with fish. You might experiment around if you try this, and get back with us.

                                                                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                                        LOVE tarragon! Dried also? I have a little plant in my "garden."

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Why not ? That sounds great.

                                                                          Dried again I would think, unless you minced the herb very small with a Mezzaluna / Hachoir.

                                                                          As we are getting a few questions on this, let me contact the source and see what is suggested.

                                                              2. Made a pasta dish for dinner last night that had breadcrumbs AND Parm. It was Baked Shells with Fontina and Parmesan and Breadcrumbs from Jack Bishop's "The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook" (an excellent book, BTW). There are a number of recipes in here that call for breadcrumbs.

                                                                1. Pasta con sarde which is traditionally made with sardines, fennel, currants, pignoli, and sometimes tomato is traditionall topped with toasted bread crumbs.

                                                                  A local restaurant in NJ serves this dish and specifically says no parmesan is needed for the dish.

                                                                  3 Replies