Italian Bread Pudding

Serves: 4-6


1/2 pound stale bread, sliced about 1/2 inch thick (see note below)

1 large garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed

2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/4 cup)

1 pound firm, ripe tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

4 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups low-fat milk

1 pound Swiss chard or beet greens (optional)


Note: If your bread is too hard to slice, dip it in the milk for about half a minute, then cut it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter a two-quart baking dish or gratin. If the bread is soft, toast it lightly and rub all the slices, front and back, with the cut clove of garlic. (If it’s hard and stale, just rub with garlic.) Mince what garlic remains. Combine the two cheeses in a small bowl.

Layer half of the bread slices in the baking dish. Top with half of the tomato slices. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and pepper, then with half the thyme and rosemary and half the remaining garlic. Top with half the cheese. Repeat the layers.

Beat together the eggs and milk. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few twists of the pepper mill, then pour over the bread and tomato layers. Place in the oven, and bake 40 to 50 minutes until puffed and browned. Remove from the oven, and serve hot or warm.

Variation: Add 1 pound Swiss chard or beet greens, prepared as they are for Sautéed Beet Greens With Garlic and Olive Oil. Layer the cooked greens over the bread with the tomatoes.

Popular vegetable substitutions include: Beet Greens or Rainbow Chard

Recipe courtesy of Martha Rose Shulman. Photograph courtesy of Andrew Scrivani.

As long as it’s not moldy, bread that has dried out can be reconstituted in thick vegetable soups, pungent salads and comforting, savory bread puddings. Add different vegetables in season, such as sautéed mushrooms or greens.