Recipe: Poor Man’s Parmesan

updated Jun 6, 2019
Poor Man’s Parmesan (Toasted Bread Crumbs)
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Hand sprinkles breadcrumbs over romaine leaves.
Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

A Sicilian friend who once visited us for the weekend and offered to make lunch, taught me a great substitute for Parmesan. We’d run out, and his pasta dish commanded a topping. So he fried up some bread crumbs and declared them “Poor Man’s Parmesan” with a very Southern Italian flick of the wrist and lift of the eyebrows.

This weekend, despite a nice hunk of Parmesan lurking in the fridge, we made a batch of the breadcrumbs and topped a zucchini and ham pasta dish with them. It just seemed like the right accompaniment. The next day, a salad of garden greens and avocado got the treatment. And I was reminded of just how delicious this little treat is, and easy to make, too.

Poor Man’s Parmesan (Toasted Bread Crumbs)

Makes 1/2 cup

Nutritional Info


  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/2 cup

    bread crumbs*

  • Several tablespoons finely chopped parsley (or try other herbs like thyme, oregano, etc.)

  • 1/4 teaspoon


  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground pepper


  1. Heat the oil over medium flame in a small sauté pan. Add the bread crumbs, salt and pepper, and stir, cooking until crumbs have absorbed the oil. Add the parsley and cook another few minutes, until crumbs turn a golden brown. Remove from pan and serve as a topping to pasta dishes, salads, meats, etc.

Recipe Notes

To make your own bread crumbs, rip up a few slices of bread, stale bread if you have it, and process in a food processor until broken into small pieces.