When you think of what an Italian grandmother cooks, what comes to mind? Is it a big bowl of meat-heavy pasta covered with copious amounts of various cheeses? Is it rustic cakes and cookies prepared by her loving wrinkled hands?
I wouldn’t blame you for having this idea of grandmotherly cooking, but if you came to dinner at my nonna’s house, you would be in for a rude awakening. Now it could just be that my grandmother is unique and doesn’t represent all Italian grandmothers (and that is probably the case) but for dinner she usually makes us boiled greens, usually the ugly outer leaves of the lettuce she pulls from her garden, sauteed with some boiled potatoes and stale bread. Now that may sound terrible, but it actually is quite delicious and satisfying because the staleness of the bread allows it to soften and absorb all the flavors in the pan but still maintain structural integrity, giving the whole dish a sort of stick-to-your-ribs feel. This is pretty much the ideal example of rustic, frugal cooking.
My grandmother makes sbobba with any leftover vegetables and odds and ends she has, but in order to qualify as a “sbobba”, it needs to include the stale bread. It seemed fitting to make this, the namesake of the blog, its first post!
You can feel free to put any vegetables you want into this and even any kind of bread. For example, I have made sbobba from sweet potatoes, greens and stale pita bread before, and once I made one with stale cornbread!
This is a very loose recipe and it is very approximate, so feel free to modify it however you want.
1 bunch swiss chard (or any other leafy green vegetable)
2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Start with the potatoes: Boil the potatoes until they are easily pierced with a fork, drain them and peel them. Set aside.
If your stale bread is very hard, you may need to soak it in some water or broth before being able to cut it into chunks. My bread was extremely hard, so I used a small amount of broth to moisten it before adding it to the pan.
If using swiss chard, separate the leafy part from the stems and chop up the stems and leaves. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sautee the stems on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender. Once they are tender, add the chopped leaves and sautee until they wilt.
At this point, chop the boiled potatoes into chunks and add them to the pan with the chard, the chunks of bread, salt to taste and the pepper.
Cook the whole thing until the flavors have melded together, about 4 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your potatoes and bread.
Serves about 4