Pangritata is also known as Poor-man’s Parmesan, yet there isn’t a smidgeon of cheese in sight! Good quality Parmigiana was often too expensive for poor peasants so they just used breadcrumbs fried in olive oil with garlic and herbs… And while it might sound strange to replace cheese with bread, I’ve always believed that Pangritata adds such a festive crunch to pastas and vegetables, that one completely overlooks the fact there’s no cheese added to the dish.

I like to tear my bread by hand to make coarse breadcrumbs, almost like ‘rustic croutons’. You may of course also briefly blitz them in a food processor, just make sure that you wind up with a mixture that still has some texture. These ‘crumbs’ are then fried in olive oil with garlic and herbs (I use thyme and rosemary) until crisp.  I sometimes also add a few spoons of chopped hazelnuts or walnuts if the pasta is really basic, like olive oil, garlic and an anchovy…  If you dry these rustic breadcrumbs in the oven (130’C for an hour) they can be kept in a jar until you need them. Then just fry a handful in a pan with olive oil, garlic and herbs before you toss them into a pasta dish at the very last moment.  It will add a vibrant, crunchy garnish that lifts a simple pasta or vegetable dish to new heights.

           3-4 tbsp olive oil
           150 – 200g stale baguette or sourdough, either blitzed to coarse breadcrumbs or torn into small pieces of 1cm)      
           2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
           1 tbsp thyme or rosemary
           6 walnuts or 12 hazelnuts, roughly chopped (optional)
           salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Toss in the rest of the ingredients and fry gently until grisp (about 15 minutes). Season to taste.