Monday, February 4, 2013

Savory Bread Pudding (Budino di pane salato)... Pizza Strata

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Isn't that just about the most beautiful colors in a dish you have ever seen?  The dish practically glows!

The title did take an unexpected turn this morning.  I fully expected to write about a savory Italian "Strata".  Then I started to do a little research.  Strata is one of those words that has been around for a very long time. Used to make a distinction between a bread pudding that is well mixed and a bread pudding that is made in layers of ingredients.  Strati is the Italian word for layered.  So, a layered bread pudding became - "The Strata".  Imagine my surprise when I found out that Italians do not use the word at all for the food dish.  Instead, it's called a Budino di Pane.  Which translates to ... Bread Pudding.

So, I'm starting a list.  Strata is not an Italian dish, but an Italian American dish, like Stromboli, which in Italy is an active volcano and one of the southern Italian islands and in fact is NOT a rolled pizza sandwich.

But, Italians do make a layered bread pudding.  As in the states, sweet or savory.  As in the states, the dish has it's origins as a peasant dish, far from a restaurant menu.  It's what I call a "Whatever ya got left" meal.  The bread is best when it is a little stale.  In fact, if you are using fresh bread it is better to dry it out for a half hour or so in an oven before starting the dish.  Fresh "moist" bread does not absorb the milky/eggy mixture as well as stale bread.  So, Italian grandmothers, never wasting food created this dish from what many people toss in the trash.  Add some of the dribs and drabs of last nights dinner and you have something special!

Now I have been making bread puddings for years.  they are very easy, but when I learned, I was taught to just dump and mix everything together.  This Italian version is in fact "Starti" or layered.  A layer of bread, topped with the milk/egg mixture, followed by a layer of "stuffing", whatever you flavor the dish with, topped by another layer of bread and then the milk/egg mixture added to this.  While I could be basking in the glow of all things Italian right now, I think this version certainly has it's merits if not outright better.

The layers work to mix textures.  Since the bottom layer gets more egg and more tme for the mixture to blend with the bread, the bottom payer becomes almost custard like.  The top layer has the egg mixture poured on top.  Certainly some of the bread absorbs the egg, but not as much as the bottom layer.  This makes for more of a French Toast type top.  So a custard bottom and a toast top.

Oh, and the dish glows too!

 Here's what I did...

Savory Bread Pudding 
(Budino di pane salato)... 
Pizza Strata

  • 1/2 Loaf Bread, sliced into 1 inch cubes then dried in an oven set at 170 for 30 minutes
  • 9 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Half and Half
  • 1 tsp each Salt and Pepper
  • 4 OZ Fresh Grated Mozzarella Cheese, divided
  • 1 Cup Herb Tomato Sauce (Jarred sauce is fine but of course your own homemade is better)
  • 1 Pound Italian Sausage, browned to render the fat, but do not over cook the sausage, the dish will also be baked
  • Additional Herbs Oregano, Thyme, etc. as needed, depending on how seasoned your Tomato sauce is.
  • 2 large Basil Leaves cut into ribbons Chiffonade style for garnish
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Whisk together the Half and Half, eggs, Salt and Pepper
  3. Layer 1/2 of the bread cubes (enough to make a single layer), in the bottom of a buttered casserole dish. Pour 1/2 of the egg/milk mixture over the bread, allow this to sit for 20 minutes allowing the bread to absorb the liquid.
  4. Meanwhile, brown the sausage begin careful to only cook long enough to render out the fat. Do not over cook.
  5. Layer the sausage over the first layer of wet bread.
  6. Layer the Tomato Sauce over the sausage.
  7. Layer 2/3rds of the cheese over the sauce
  8. Layer the last half of the bread cubes over the cheese
  9. pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread cubes, making sure all of the cubes are coated.
  10. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3rd of the cheese over the top
  11. Bake for 40 minutes until the top is GOLDEN BROWN AND DELICIOUS!
  12. Garnish with the slivered basil
  13. Serve warm and Enjoy!

Of course this makes a fine breakfast.  This recipe is easily adapted to a sweet dish (be sure to add some sugar into the milk/egg mix) to make a Dolci (dessert).  If you were serving this for an evening meal, this would be a Secondo (Second course, meat course).  Without the meat (a savory onion bread pudding is a delicious side), this could be served as a Contorni or Vegetable side dish.


This simple recipe has been added to my growing list of "52 Breakfast Ideas!"

It's the most important meal of the day.  From fancy to simple, there are always ways to dress up a breakfast dish.  These are the meals that make Bed and Breakfast Inns legendary (and usually easier than you think).

Here's your chance to make your guests Ooh and Aah!


And,  I am pleased to also list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Authentic Italian Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook!  So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!


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