For as long as I can remember, through my childhood years until adulthood, my father would go to the Italian bakery on Sunday mornings and come home with two loaves of freshly baked Italian bread. One loaf would be consumed with our Sunday dinner of pasta and meatballs. The other loaf would be left out to harden, so that my mother could grate the bread to make her seasoned bread crumbs to use when she made the next batch of meatballs the following Sunday. To the grated bread crumbs, she would add freshly grated Romano cheese, freshly minced garlic, freshly chopped parsley, and salt and pepper. My mom never measured anything—sometimes the bread crumbs made the meatballs taste a little cheesier; other times they tasted a little more garlicky or saltier; but, no matter what, they always came out great.
Since I started my cooking endeavors as a baker which is a more precise discipline than cooking, it was a bit frustrating at first to try to recreate my mom’s seasoning ratios. Of course, I asked her—but she threw up her hands and said she didn’t know. I knew what she’d say in advance because this is a woman who doesn’t own measuring cups or spoons. After several stabs at it, I perfected it so that now, each and every time, it tastes the same—fabulous. I’d even go so far as to say it is frantastic!
I have a bowl of these seasoned bread crumbs in my refrigerator 365 days a year. I call it my “magic mix” as opposed to “master mix.” A lot of cookbooks have a master mix recipe for cakes and cookies. It’s a dry mix where you just add a few ingredients to make all kinds of different recipes. Similarly, I use these bread crumbs in many applications—meatballs, chicken/veal cutlets, eggplant/veal/chicken parmigiana, baked stuffed shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, etc. The bread crumbs keep well in the refrigerator for several weeks although they rarely last that long.
Years ago, a friend who loved my chicken cutlets but really wasn’t a good cook asked me for the recipe. I gave her the recipe for the bread crumbs and told her how to make the cutlets (thinly slice boneless chicken breasts, dip in beaten egg, dip in bread crumbs, and fry until golden and cooked through). Then I made her look me straight in the eyes and promise not to buy the phony cheese in the green canister, not to substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic, and not to substitute dried parsley for fresh…..or else!
Now it’s your turn to promise.
Italian Bread Crumbs
- 4 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
- 5 or 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup or so fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 rounded tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.
Source: A Mama Musto and frantastic original