Recipe Review

This Famous Italian Restaurant’s Crouton Hack Will Change How You Make Salad Forever

published Oct 3, 2023
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I Tried the Carbone Style Caesar Salad
Credit: Cory Fernandez

Sometimes you just have to throw in something unexpected to make a salad more exciting. Whether it’s special homemade salad dressing or a favorite store-bought crouton, the right addition to a salad can be a game-changer. Speaking of croutons, this one trick I picked up while trying out a very famous salad recipe completely changed my outlook on the crunchy add-in forever.

When testing out the recipe for a homemade version of Carbone’s beloved Caesar salad, there was one main thing about the salad that completely took me by surprise in the best way. In the recipe, the homemade croutons are tossed with a mix of tomato paste mashed together with red pepper flakes, dried oregano, melted butter, and roasted garlic. The smell they created once I took them from the oven was nothing short of magical.

Credit: Cory Fernandez

How to Make Tomato Paste Croutons for Any Salad

  • Choose a bread: Start by choosing a quality loaf of crusty bread, as this makes for crispier croutons that can withstand moisture. Sourdough bread torn by hand into 1-inch pieces is a perfect option for this. 
  • Make the tomato paste mixture: In a large bowl, mix together a tablespoon of tomato paste with a couple of tablespoons of melted butter and a pinch of salt, red pepper flakes, if desired, and dried oregano. The most important ingredients here are the tomato paste and butter, as they add flavor and crispness.
  • Toss the bread cubes with the tomato paste: Add the torn bread cubes to the bowl with the tomato paste mixture. Use a large spoon to gently toss the bread cubes in the mixture until fully coated. They will turn a bright orange hue in the process. 
  • Toast the bread cubes in the oven: Spread the bread cubes out onto a large baking sheet and toast them in the oven at 350°F, tossing once or twice, until golden-brown, crispy, and super fragrant. Press one of the croutons to test that it is crisp enough. 

While Carbone is known for this technique and particularly for using it on large, rectangular cubes of bread, you can use this method for any size of bread cubes and on almost any type of bread. You can slice the bread cubes with a knife, although tearing them by hand gives them more texture and crunch once toasted.

The next time you’re trying to get more excited about eating a salad that seems a bit bland, definitely reach for that small can of tomato paste hiding in the back of your cabinet.