Between the Forties and the Fifites, a large number of families in Italy were struggling with poverty and hardships; it was not a given to have food on the table every day, and for this reason nothing was ever wasted or thrown away. Moreover, being Italy a country of strong Catholic traditions, bread has always been considered almost sacred, as it represents the body of Christ. Even placing bread upside down on the table was considered a sign of disrespect, akin to placing Christ himself ‘with his face on the ground’.
Although hard and not pleasant to eat by itself, old bread was never just thrown away, but actually carefully preserved to be used in different preparations. In the small towns around Foggia, an Apulian city, old bread has been traditionally used to prepare the recipe we present you today: old bread brought to new life by boiling it with a bit of rocket salad.
Rocket is a weed that grows spontaneously all over Italy: one can find some in any olive grove or vegetable garden – and it even grows in vineyards. Rocket usually has a strong and bitter taste, but when it grows in a vineyard it tastes slightly sweeter.
Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 10 mins
- Rocket salad/Arugula: 200 g
- Chili peppers: 2
- Garlic, peeled: 3 cloves
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): 7-8 tbsp
- Old bread: as needed
Rinse the rocket salad under cold running water and cut the bread in bite-sized chunks. Boil both the bread and the rocket in a pot of salted water for about 5-6 minutes; drain them and gently squeeze the bread to get rid of some of the water. Place the bread and the rocket salad in a serving bowl.
Tip: The bread should not break down completely in the water, but only soften up considerably.
Heat up the oil in a pan and brown the garlic and the chili peppers.
Pour the aromatic oil directly from the pan over the bread and rocket salad. Stir well to evenly combine all the ingredients.
Serve warm, definitely.
Tip: Some peeled and cubed potatoes, turnip greens, chickory and other wild herbs can be added to this dish to make it even more delicious. No extra preparation is needed: just boil the additional ingredients together with the bread and rocket.