Crumbs on crack: Roast Veg with Nutty, Spicy Pangrattato

 Roast Veg with Nutty, Spicy Pangrattato

Let’s face it: there are not that many ways to make a veggie side interesting. One of the reasons I tend to be a one-dish-meal kind of girl (you know, besides being lazy) is the tricky matter of making a great side dish. Not only does it have to be interesting on its own, but it must also complement whatever the main dish is: a tall order for some humble veggies, no?

So Ill let you in on a little secret I’ve discovered: pangrattato. Ok, so it’s not really a secret, but this crispy breadcrumb topping is far less well-known than it should be, in my opinion. Id never heard of it at all before Jamie Oliver made a version on TV a couple years ago. Hell, I even told my boss, a professional chef and food business owner, the name of that delicious crispy breadcrumb topping he was waxing poetic over!

 Roast Veg with Nutty, Spicy Pangrattato

At its simplest, pangrattato is a toasted breadcrumb topping, but it can be gussied up in innumerable ways. Jamie’s original version contained porcini mushrooms, and he also does a mean chili one. It can be fried in butter or olive oil, can contain spices, nuts or herbs, and can range in flavour from Italian to Indian or Greek. I gave this one a bright Asian taste with chili, cashews, coriander and lemon zest. Basically, these are breadcrumbs on crack.

So, once you’ve pimped up your breadcrumbs, you need a vehicle for them. Pangrattato makes a wicked topping for pasta, risotto, soup or fish, but I find it most useful for the humble roast veg. For this dish I chose a mixture of butternut squash and cauliflower; it might sound like an odd combination, but the mixture in flavour and texture is awesome. Almost any roast-able veg would work though; broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, potatoes, and squash would all be good.

There’s just one teeny problem with this dish. It’s so good, I sometimes end up eating a whole bowl of these crumbly veg as a main, instead of a side. Right back to square one, then.

Roast Veg with Nutty, Spicy Pangrattato

serves 4 as a side (makes approx. 1 cup of pangrattato)

For the roast vegetables:

  • 750g vegetable(s) of your choice, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • a good pinch sea salt

For the pangrattato:

  • 45g butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp. chili flakes
  • 50g cashews, chopped finely
  • 100g fresh breadcrumbs (white or brown)
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped coriander
  • sea salt, to taste

  1. Start by roasting the vegetables. Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F and spread the chopped (or floreted) veg in a single layer on a baking sheet or shallow dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and toss to coat. Roast until tender (time will depend on what you’re using; mine took about 20 minutes).
  2. While the vegetables are cooking, start the pangrattato. Heat the butter in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and add the garlic. When it begins to colour, add the chili flakes and cashews and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan and stir well so that they evenly soak up the butter. Cook for another 4-6 minutes, stirring frequently so that the breadcrumbs become brown and toasted. Remove pan from the heat and discard the garlic cloves. Stir in the lemon zest and coriander and season to taste.
  4. When the vegetables are done roasting, toss with the pangrattato and serve immediately.
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