We’re Cooking: Tomato-Basil Bread Pudding

I made this bread pudding for a dinner party around the holidays and describing it was a little hard for some to understand as bread pudding is inherently sweet.  However, I love a savory bread pudding as I tend to lean away from the sweet to more savory items, and have successfully made everything from mushroom and thyme bread pudding to roasted winter squash bread pudding, and (as it turns out) this tomato-basil bread pudding. Gary and I tend to buy a fresh loaf of bread for every dinner party, and inevitably we use about half of it.  I started saving the left over bread, wrapping it and freezing it, so we tend to have day-old, left over bread on hand, which is key for a good bread pudding as you need a hard loaf of bread to really absorb the pudding and not disolve.  We unwrap the frozen bread and leave it out for a few hours before making the pudding to both thaw and harden a bit. For this, the bread pudding does have a bit of sweetness with the savoriness, as roasted tomatoes with balsamic caramelize in the oven, with a fresh pop from fresh basil and creamy, cheesy pudding. We served some fresh pesto on the side making the whole thing simply delicious.

Recipe:

Tomato-Basil Bread Pudding
Ingredients:
Half a loaf of day old bread, cut into large cubes.  We used rosemary bread, to add an extra herbal note and left the crusts on.  You can remove the crusts if you prefer
1 pint red cherry tomatoes – cut in half
1/2 pint yellow cherry tomatoes – cut in half
1 small red onion
4 cloves garlic – minced
2  tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons black pepper
Salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon pine nuts – toasted and chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil + more for garnish – julienne
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups fat-free or regular half and half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 ounces fresh mozzarella – cubed
Cooking spray

Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 400.  In a mixing bowl toss the tomatoes together with the Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon oil with 1 clove of minced garlic.  Pour on to a foil lined baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes until the tomatoes are very soft and caramelized.  Meanwhile saute the onions and garlic in the remaining olive oil until softened, about 7-10 minutes. Add the lemon zest and juice, red pepper flakes and season with a bit of salt and pepper.  In a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs together.  Whisk in the half and half and season with salt and pepper. Reduce oven temp to 350 degrees when the tomatoes have roasted and are removed from the oven.  Add the bread, tomatoes, pine nuts, half of the Parmesan cheese and basil to the egg mixture and stir well to incorporate.  Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.   Pour the bread and egg mixture into the baking dish.  Dot the mozzarella cheese around the top of the pudding.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove the foil over and continue to bake uncovered for another 10 minutes.  Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh basil and serve hot with basil pesto on the side.

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