Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs (Pasta con pangrattato)
This thrifty pasta dish is from an era when clever home cooks had to feed large families and meat and cheese were too expensive and often hard to come by. Bread was always on hand and stale bread was never wasted. Stale bread shows up in many classic Italian soups, pastas and even deserts. Crisp, savory breadcrumbs are the star in this dish. The simple ingredients are deceptively flavorful.
This is the basic recipe and is very, very good just the way it is. In Italy, some families toss in toasted crushed, dried red peppers, sardines or anchovies. Others brown a small bit of pancetta or prosciutto in the olive oil step of the recipe.
The beauty of Italian cooking is its long list of core recipes such as this one that have been adapted and changed to suit each family’s tastes and budget.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups fresh homemade breadcrumbs
2 large garlic cloves, very finely minced
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti, linguine or capellini
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two. Remove from heat; add the cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and add to pan with breadcrumbs. Toss over low heat until pasta is coated. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese.