Stale bread and pecorino dumplings

Stale bread dumplings mightn’t sound too appetising, but these soft and cheesy balls – swimming in a rich tomato sauce – are an absolute delight. Comfort food at its finest, these dumplings would also work well in meaty braises or vegetable soup.



  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 1clove garlic, skin on, bashed with the back of a knife
  • 1clove garlic, extra, finely chopped
  • 1small celery stick, finely chopped
  • ¼ red or green capsicum (pepper), coarsely chopped
  • 2 x 400 g tins tomatoes
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 200 ml water
  • torn basil leaves, to garnish
  • Dumplings
    • 200 g day-old Italian bread (such as pane di casa or ciabatta), crusts removed, cut into chunks
    • 1 cup(250 ml) water or milk
    • 2 cups(160 g) finely grated parmesan or pecorino
    • 1egg , lightly beaten
    • 3 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 3 tbsp roughly chopped basil
    • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
    • olive oil, for deep-frying



  • Soaking time 20 minutes
  • Resting time 20 minutes
  • Standing time 1 hour
  1. To make the dumplings, soak the bread in the milk for 20 minutes or until soft. Squeeze out any excess liquid then, using your hands, break down the bread to a pulp. Add the cheese, egg and herbs and mix to form a sticky batter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the spring onion, garlic, celery and capsicum and cook, stirring, for 3–4 minutes or until fragrant. Add the tinned tomatoes and water, season with salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 20 minutes or until reduced slightly.
  3. To cook the dumplings, half-fill a saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium–high heat to 180ºC or until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds. With wet hands, shape the dumpling mixture into 5 cm balls.
  4. Add the dumplings to the oil in batches and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Add the cooked dumplings to the tomato sauce, cover with the lid and stand, off the heat, for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavours to mingle and the dumplings to soak up the sauce. Reheat if you like or serve warm, garnished with torn basil leaves.


  • This dish tastes even better the next day – if you have any leftovers, that is…

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.