Pasta with Zucchini and Grape Tomatoes with Toasted Bread Crumbs

This Pasta with Zucchini and Grape Tomatoes is topped with toasted bread crumbs and is so delicious you will want to eat the whole thing. If you have never tried toasted bread crumbs on your pasta you NEED to.  It is a step you can leave out of this dish, because the zucchini and tomatoes are delicious on their own.  But trust me when I say, you should try the bread crumbs. The textural contrast of the pasta cooked to a perfect al dente with the delicious sauteed zucchini and bread crumb topping, is just an incredible combination.   

Pasta topped with breadcrumbs is actually a practice that originated long ago.  It is typical “cucina povera” or “poor kitchen” originating in the south of Italy.  There, bread crumbs were used instead of cheese, which was expensive.  The bread crumbs were actually called the “poor man’s cheese,” and added flavor and heartiness to simple dishes.

Stale bread was saved and made into crumbs and then toasted in olive oil. The flavor is just amazing and it is a great way not to waste.


(Serves 4)

⅓ Cup Olive Oil, plus 4 tbsp. for the bread crumbs

4 Garlic Cloves, whole

⅛ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes 

1.9 lbs Zucchini, diced into quarters moon shapes

10 oz, Cherry Tomatoes, halved

5 oz Day Old Italian Bread, torn into pieces. Will make about 1 Cup of crumbs.

1¼ tsp. Salt

½ tsp Pepper

10 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped

1 lb. Pasta, I used penne

Grated Pecorino to serve


Begin to boil your pasta water.

Take your old bread, break into chunks and put in a food processor.  Chop until the bread crumbs are created.  You don't want them to be too fine, but slightly chunky.

Next heat 4 tbsp of olive oil  (on low to medium temperature) in a pan and get in the bread crumbs. Toast them, stirring often so they cook evenly. This will take about 10 minutes.  You want the crumbs to be nice and crunchy.  You can even season with a little salt if you wish. Remove from the pan once toasted and set aside.

In a pan (you can use the same one) on a low temperature, saute garlic in ⅓ cup of olive oil and red pepper flakes until fork tender. Using a fork, smash the garlic into the olive oil.

Add in the cherry tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes.  Use the side of your spoon to break the tomatoes apart.

Next add in the zucchini.  Saute for about 5 to 8 minutes and then season with salt and pepper. Keep sauteeing until the zucchini is cooked through and add in the chopped basil.

Boil the pasta. Reserve some pasta water and drain once the pasta is al dente. 

Combine the pasta with the zucchini and tomatoes in the pan. Add in a little pasta water if you think the sauce needs a little more juice.

Serve topped with a sprinkle of the toasted bread crumbs and grated Pecorino.

You can leave out the bread crumbs 

but If you have never tried it on your pasta you NEED to.

It gives great flavor and depth

Take old bread,

I store mine in ziplocks and put a food processor to make the crumbs.

Then toast in some olive oil 

Please note: the toasted bread crumbs can be made in advance for this dish.  Simply cool and stored in an airtight container.

Stale Bread for the Bread Crumbs

Whenever I have leftover Italian bread I either freeze it immediately to have at another time or I break the bread into tiny pieces and store in a Ziploc to make breadcrumbs.   I keep the Ziplock on the counter and when it is almost full,  I put the bread in the food processor and pulverizer into crumbs.  I then store the bread crumbs in my freezer and use it for so many things. 

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