Pappa al Pomodoro or Panata Dolce

Here, I trust, will be helpful counsel for Colorado cooks who neither own nor take care of ducks. Now then, a couple of recipes for using up stale bread.

Many cultures and cuisines make do with leftover bread. It’s a smart move, not merely a frugal one. Leftover bread adds much flavor and a yeoman’s heft to the foods with which it is cooked. And it’s a better stretcher than most anything else available. Without it, we would have far less gazpacho, migas (the delicious Spanish vegetable and sausage dish), romesco sauce or good meatloaf.

It’s the base of “pain perdu” (“lost bread”), the original French name for what we call “French toast.” Without it, there would be no down-home American bread pudding, Apple Brown Betty or even Thanksgiving dinner’s stuffing, all of which profitably use up stale bread.

But, for my palate, no one bests an Italian (especially a Tuscan) at cooking with leftover, days-old bread. What elevates summertime’s panzanella — chopped fresh tomato, onion, olive oil and basil — but the bread? There’s no gut-heating to a ribollita — that twice-cooked Tuscan stew of black cabbage, beans and other vegetables — without its stale crusts.

You’ll find pappa al pomodoro cooked throughout Italy; perhaps, just perhaps, Tuscany’s is best. The recipe here is aimed for winter eating because it utilizes the best canned or jarred tomatoes that you can find.

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