Enough With the Stuffing: 10 Ways to Use Stale Bread

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A staple for many cultures dating back thousands of years, bread is still one of the most beloved foodstuffs. As with any food staple, cooks have devised ways to use bread that's past its prime by drawing on local culinary traditions. Some recipes were born of hard economic times, others of sheer experimentation. Regardless, the result is scores of recipes built on the foundation of stale bread. Here are 10 ideas besides stuffing that squeeze every penny out of every loaf and slice.

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A heartwarming classic, bread pudding relies on chunks of stale bread to soak up a mix of eggs and milk seasoned with cinnamon and vanilla before being baked into a sweet and delicious casserole. This simple dish can be enjoyed for breakfast or dessert.

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Frittata is usually served with a side of toast, but adding chunks of stale bread into the egg mix creates a welcome textural contrast. Bread frittata is an all-in-one meal: Throw in a little sausage for carnivores or bulk up with leftover veggies for vegetarians.

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As a last resort, there are always bread crumbs. Place chunks of stale bread in a food processor and pulse with a few pinches of Italian herbs until finely ground. Store in an airtight container up to four weeks and use as a topping, coating, or binder.

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This delicious salad calls for cubes of old bread to soak up the juices from tomatoes and the dressing. The result is soft, toothsome bites that burst with flavor. The foundation includes tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, garlic, basil, oil, and vinegar -- and, of course, those bread cubes. Customize as desired.

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A few humble ingredients make this soup from southern Spain a luxuriously creamy and decadent treat. The secret is the use of old bread blended into the liquid to create a silky and velvety texture. Use the best tomatoes available for this easy recipe, which also incorporates garlic, onion, sherry vinegar, and a healthy dose of olive oil.

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A genius way to use up old bread is not only a chef trick but also a time saver. Rather than fussing with a roux -- mixing flour with water and stirring constantly until the flour cooks and thickens the sauce, stew, or soup -- add stale bread until it falls apart and naturally thickens the liquid. Use sourdough for an extra-complex flavor

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Cubes of stale bread can be tossed with a bit of oil and seasoning, such as salt, pepper, and oregano, and baked in the oven until crisp. For crunchy croutons, use smaller cubes; for a bit of softness on the inside, start with larger cubes and toss into salad while still warm.

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Any good Italian knows that the secret to moist and tender meatballs (and meatloaf) is bread crumbs. As with so many other recipes, the crumbs not only enhance the final product but also stretch the more expensive ingredients, notably meat, into more servings. Figure one-half cup bread crumbs to 1 pound meat.

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The name of this filling soup literally means "reboiled" in Italian. It features a flavorful broth, cannellini beans, and vegetables, along with bread for textural contrast and heartiness. Stale bread is better than fresh because the dryness helps the bread retain its form longer and not get lost in the soup.

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Migas, another traditional Spanish dish, combines old bread with bacon. Some believe the origins of this comfort food to be Moorish, as with couscous, while others say it stems from the financial imperative to use every scrap of food. Either way, this tasty dish is a thrifty addition to any meal.