I first saw this dish called Pane Cotta on the author Jane Green’s Instagram page – she had it at a restaurant and it was so good she went home and made it and posted a rough recipe of it! It translates to Baked Bread, it’s an Italian peasant meal (read: rustic and delicious).
This was one of the most original things I’ve eaten lately, with totally surprising flavors and textures that worked so well together. The braised escarole mixed with the pancetta and leeks were all somewhat delicate, then mixed with the sharp saltiness of the melted cheese, the meatiness of the white beans (you can use any kind here) and cubes of herby, garlicky bread…
The recipe calls for herbs and garlic and it’s really forgiving – I just sprinkled on some garlic salt, olive oil, and thyme. While the bread is toasting, everything else cooks in the same pan. First you cook some pancetta, then in the same pan you add some butter and some leeks…
Then you braise some escarole in chicken broth, and add some white beans…
Then the thing that really ties the whole dish together is the cheese. I tasted it a little with just parm, and just asiago, then with both of them together, and I liked them combined. But don’t let having only one kind of cheese keep you from making this because its just delicious.
Oh, I forgot to tell you the best part! My kids loved it. This seems like it should be a grown up dish, but really its just a twist on things kids love anyway – bread and cheese. If your kid won’t touch anything green, then I can’t speak for them, but mine will and they asked for seconds.
Like many peasant dishes, it was meant to use up left overs, and I think that is what this dish will be for my kitchen – an amazing way to use up a loaf of bread that is starting to get hard. But really it is nice enough to bring to a pot luck or serve for company, or just to have a nice side dish for a roast over the weekend.
Hope you try this soon, it is such a special dish, and will transport you to Italy for a minute or five, I promise.
Happy Eating! xoxo Katie
Pane Cotta (printer version here):
3 cups day-old bread, torn up into crouton sized pieces
2 T. olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic salt
Fresh herbs, salt and pepper
8 oz. pancetta, diced
2 leeks, sliced (white and light green parts only)
2 T. butter
1 head of escarole, rinsed and torn into small pieces
1 cup chicken stock
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 cup of parmesan and/or asiago (I used ½ cup of each)
Preheat oven to 375. Place bread on cookie sheet, and toss with olive oil, garlic salt (or minced garlic), fresh herbs if desired, salt and pepper.
While that bakes, cook pancetta on medium high heat until browned, then remove and set aside. Place butter in same pan, and add sliced leeks. Saute until soft, then remove from pan and set aside (can put them on same plate as pancetta). Add escarole with a cup of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid on for a few minutes until escarole is soft. Mix in a can of rinsed white beans, and add all the other ingredients (bread, pancetta, leeks, etc) to the same pan. Top with grated parmesan and/or asiago cheese, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.