7 Ingenious Italian Uses for Day-Old Bread

How to transform stale bread into delicious Italian dishes.

A lot of Italian cuisine is based in frugality: using up everything and wasting nothing. Particularly in Tuscany, where traditional Tuscan bread, made without any salt, tends to harden and go stale very quickly, there are numerous recipes that are designed to use up that hardened bread. 

So next time you find yourself with bread that's too hard to eat, don't despair! There's no need to throw it out and waste perfectly good food, and you can make something far more interesting and...MORE satisfying than just croutons with it.

Here are seven different ideas for delicious Italian dishes that transform stale, hard bread into something delicious.

[Edited by Danette St. Onge]

  • 01 of 07
    Tuscan Ribollita soup (Florentine soup) made with lacinato kale, cannellini beans, Tuscan bread, and olive oil.
    Tuscan Ribollita soup (Florentine soup) made with lacinato kale, cannellini beans, Tuscan bread, and olive oil. Nico Tondini/Getty Images

    This bean, kale, and bread soup is one of the most classic Tuscan winter dishes, and it's well worth letting a loaf of bread go stale to make it. Or even two, because people will ask for more. Also, it gets better with time.

  • 02 of 07
    Acquacotta, A Traditional Tuscan Vegetable Soup
    Acquacotta, A Traditional Tuscan Vegetable Soup. Danette St. Onge

    Hailing from the coastal Tuscan region of Maremma, this quick and simple, yet rich and satisfying soup, is made with whatever vegetables are available (generally onions and Tuscan kale), plus tomatoes and stale slices of bread, which are rubbed with garlic and placed in the bottom of each bowl to soften in the broth.

  • 03 of 07

    Pappa al Pomodoro

    Pappa al pomodoro - Tuscan Tomato-Bread Porridge
    Pappa al pomodoro - Tuscan Tomato-Bread Porridge. Philip Wilkins/Getty Images
    I've seen this described as a wintery tomato soup in some English language cookbooks, but they're mistaken: Pappa al pomodoro shouldn't be soupy -- thick, rather -- and is something you make when sun-ripened tomatoes and basil are at their richest. Also, you make more than you think you'll need because everybody comes back for seconds.
  • 04 of 07

    Cacciucco alla Livornese

    Cacciucco - Livornese Seafood Stew with Toasted Bread
    Cacciucco - Livornese Seafood Stew with Toasted Bread. FoodCollection RF/Getty Images

    Cacciucco is a fish stew made in the Tuscan port town of Livorno, from whatever the fishmonger has that's fresh and inexpensive. It should have a healthy jolt of red chile pepper, and will sell you on fish if you don't like fish already. It's served in bowls lined with toasted slices of stale bread.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Canederli

    A bowl of traditional Sudtirol knodel/canederli dumplings
    A bowl of traditional Sudtirol knodel/canederli dumplings. Francesco Iacobelli/Getty Images

    Canederli (Knodel in German) are bread dumplings about the size of a golf ball, and are one of the symbols of the Dolomites, something hearty and simple that adds considerably to a bowl of broth or soup.

  • 06 of 07

    Panzanella: Tuscan Bread Salad

    Panzanella, Prepared by Simone Ciattini of the Trattoria La Baracchina
    Panzanella, Prepared by Simone Ciattini of the Trattoria La Baracchina. © Kyle Phillips, licensed to About.Com

    An extraordinarily refreshing bread salad that's perfect on a hot summer day; it makes for great picnic food, too. Quite versatile, and it can be made a day ahead.

  • 07 of 07

    Kale on Toasted Bread

    Tuscan kale on toasted bread
    Tuscan kale on toasted bread. Monika Kanakova/EyeEm/Getty Images

    I prefer Bruschetta made with fresh bread because it's dry. However, these slices topped with kale first get dipped into the pot liquor, so dryness is not a problem.