Bread

Rarely is there an Italian meal that does not include bread. Ancient tools and ovens provide proof that man has been making breads for thousands of years. Like many other foods, ancient Romans took the art of bread- making to a higher level. In addition to enhancing the milling techniques of wheat, the Romans also were the first to produce flour, which could be baked into white bread. Rome even opened a baking school in the 1st century AD.

Italians have high standards for their bread. They are known to allow the yeast to fully rise over the course of several hours, leaving a thin crust. Italians value the size of their loaves of bread because every family member needs to be properly nourished. Italians prefer their bread to have a soft and moist interior, which is ideal for absorbing olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes, and other select toppings.

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Types of Italian Bread

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Cecìna

Originating along the Tuscan coast, this pizza-like flatbread is made from a batter consisting of water, olive oil, and chickpea flour. Sea salt, black pepper, and rosemary are often used to season each thin, crisp pancake. Cecina and Farinata are virtually identical.

Ciabatta

Wheat flour and yeast comprise the ingredients used to make this Italian white bread originally produced in Liguria. Its shape should be long, broad and flat, with a slight collapse in the center. Ciabatta is soft, light and porous with a crisp crust. There are regional varieties of Ciabatta throughout Italy.

Colomba Pasquale

Natural yeast, butter, flour, sugar, and eggs are used to produce this bread, traditionally baked on Easter. It is shaped like a dove and coated with almonds and course sugar before baking.

Coppia Ferrarese IGP

Early forms of Coppia Ferrarese date back as far as 1287, when bakers were encouraged to produce bread in the shape of scrolls known as orleti. Each 3- to 9-ounce loaf of Coppia Ferrarese is shaped with two dough ribbons knotted together. Each end is twisted into a fan shape with four crostini, or spokes. Flour, lard, olive oil, and malt are used in the production of Coppia Ferrarese. Some 330 bakeries in the province of Ferrara produce this golden-crusted, aromatic bread.

Farinata

Native to Liguria, this pizza-like flatbread is made from a batter consisting of water, olive oil, and chickpea flour. Sea salt, black pepper, and rosemary are often used to season each thin, crisp pancake. Farinata and Cecina are virtually identical.

Farro della Garfagnana IGP

Historically, Tuscany had always cultivated the ancient grain, spelt. Although it ceased cultivation in the rest of Tuscany, Garfagnana continues to have a strong market for the grain. Rules maintain that no synthetic chemicals or other pesticides may be used in producing or storing spelt. Stalks of Farro della Garfagnana are generally floury after husking. They are streaky white in color.

Focaccia

This relative of pizza is ovenbaked and flat. Focaccia is seasoned with Italian olive oil and can be topped with herbs, meats, cheese, or vegetables. Rosemary, sage, and sea salt are common seasonings for this Italian treasure.

Fragguno

Baked on Good Friday in Calabria and eaten on Easter Sunday. Fragguno is stuffed with foods such as salami, cheese, and eggs.

Grissini

Native to Turin and Piedmont, these breadsticks originated in the 17th century. The shape is irregular, twisty, and thin like a pencil. It is common to find grissini served with butter and wrapped in prosciutto.

Pandoro

One of the two Italian sweet yeast breads served mainly on Christmas day. This frustum-shaped bread with an 8-pointed star is usually coated in vanilla icing to represent snow. In ancient times, breads like Pandoro would be reserved for royalty, but everyone may enjoy them today. Domenico Melegatti, resident of Verona, attained a patent for producing Pandoro in 1894.

Pane Carasau

This half-meter wide Sardinian bread is thin and crisp. Pane Carasau is a twice baked flat bread that may last up to a year if eaten dry. Note: Pane Carasau is also known as Carta di Musica (sheet music) because of its extremely thin, paper-like quality.

Pane Casareccio di Genzano IGP

The week-long aroma of this bread is one of its most distinguishable characteristics. It is baked in soccie, or wood-fired ovens in Genzano, Italy. Pane Casareccio di Genzano became popular in Rome during the 1940’s; it was delivered from Genzano while still extremely fresh. Select ingredients including natural yeast, mineral salt, water, and flour are used in making this bread from the province of Rome. Pane Casareccio di Genzano comes in round loaves or long rods.

Pane di Altamura DOP

Originally, the dough for this bread would be home-made and then publically baked by a local professional. The baker would stamp family initials into the dough so it would come back to the appropriate household. The finished product is very crisp and aromatic. Pane di Altamura is known for its long shelf life.

Panettone

Native to Milan, Panettone is one of the two Italian sweet yeast breads served mainly on Christmas day. Acidic dough used to make Panettone is cured before being shaped into a cupola, which extends from a cylindrical base. Raisins, candied orange, citron, and lemon zest are added to the bread for flavoring. Regional variations for Panettone include serving with Crema di Mascarpone, or chocolate.

Penia

An Easter bread made primarily in rural parts of Italy. Along with the common sugar, butter and eggs, anise seeds and lemon are added to Penia for a unique flavor.

Piadina

Flour, lard, salt, and water make up the typical ingredients of this flatbread from the Romagna region. Piadinerie sell these fresh breads stuffed with items such as cheese, salumi, vegetables, or jams. Regional variation accounts for differences in thickness. Piadina are comparable to a Mexican tortilla.

Taralli

This sweet or savory ring-shaped snack is common throughout Southern Italy. Taralli can be sugar-glazed or flavored with poppy seed, fennel, salt, pepper, sesame, onion, or garlic. The rings gain a unique texture due to being boiled before baked. Note: Taralli are often dunked in wine.

38 thoughts on “Bread”

  1. Have you ever heard of Bustaluna or Bustoluna bread . It is either from Sicily, Calabria, or somewhere in southern Italy. It is hard bread, long shape , with seeds & is brown in color.

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  2. My great-aunt used to bake a type of breakfast bread roll which contained anise seeds. They were rather tough and needed to be dunked in coffee.She learned to make them from her mother who came from Basilicata. We used to call them galoods. I would like to know their real name so I can find a recipe.

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  3. I grew up in a Brooklyn Sicilian neighborhood. Local bakeries sold loaves of bread,
    baked in a brick oven. Each was approximately 11inches x 11inches. They had
    “furrows” down the length of the loaf creating what looked like 4 fingers Each finger
    could be separated into individual pieces.

    These loaves had a thin hard crust with soft interiors and excellent for sandwich making.

    If possible, PLEASE send me the name and recipe for this bread.

    Reply
  4. I am a home baker and tried to find a recipe for “pizza bread”. I grew up in Newark, NJ and this was sold in local bakeries and used for Italian style hot dog sandwiches. This “pizza bread” is a flat bread about 1″ thick, 9″ round with a small hole in the middle. It looks like a giant bagel but a soft bread, almost like a white bread dough. Some think that pizza dough was used to make this. I don’t know if this was developed here in USA by Italian Americans or came from Italy years ago. I can’t include a pic of it here, but Calandras Bakery in Newark, NJ has a pic on their website.

    Reply
    • Funny, i was trying to explain Jummy Buffs and Italian hot dogs to my kids last night. I will see if Calandras still makes it!
      thanks
      ed

      Reply
      • I have not been to Jimmy Buffs in forever. I enjoy the tradition and the Italian franks. We just don’t have the ethnic old Europe classics like Jersey, Philly, New York, Chicago and Boston

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  5. I just came from Amalfi coast and at a winery in Tramonti had a very hard bread that the family said was twice baked and they had a special ceramic bowl they would fill with water, soak the bread briefly in and then the bowl had a ledge with holes to drain the water off and then you eat it with olive oil or in a salad with tomatoes… they said it was made with organic wheat – they also said something about “sponga” or sponge… being in the name… any idea what it is?

    Reply
  6. My husband’s Italian American family makes a bread around Easter time that they pronounce bah-loon. I have scoured all through the Internet and can’t find anything like it. It’s not the traditional “Italian Easter Bread” recipes I find. Their recipe calls for half a dozen eggs. Any idea on what it’s really called?

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  7. I had an excellent sandwich from Monica’s in Boston’s North End. It was on what looked like a very skinny baguette. Crispy crust, perfectly toothsome inside and a wonderful flavor. Is there a name for this shape of bread in Italian? I’ve never seen them at Faragalli’s, the best Italian bread bakery in Philadelphia. Thanks!

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  8. I’ve tried a kind of crisp bread/crackers with tomato&basil that were very similar to taralli but had rectangular shape that also reminded a little pillow. Any ideas about how they can be called?

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  9. All the women in three Calabrian families (my grandmother and many great aunts) made a crispy bread with anise that was baked as a roll, then split and baked again until crispy. We called it frazzini and typically served it with breakfast. Many dipped it in coffee. I liked it crispy with butter or Italian cheese. I can’t find a recipe for it anywhere. Any ideas?

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  10. 1960s/1970s in Brooklyn a crisp salty/peppery toast was sold in large boxes that looked like an old fashioned shirt box from the laundry. It had shape similar to melba toast but was buttery and not hard but crispy like a homemade crouton. It was always called ‘toast’ and sweet whipped butter was spread on the cracker. Any idea what the name is and where to buy it today?

    Reply
  11. My mother made two kinds of mini breadsticks we called “tadods” or maybe “tarods”. They were about four or five inches long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. One was garlic flavored and the other had anise seeds on the outside of I remember correctly. I vaguely remember her rolling them out and boiling them before baking. They were kind of hard. Maybe like the Taralli? Have you ever heard that name?

    Reply
  12. My next door neighbor when I was growing up was from Torino, Italy. She used to make a bread that she called “Chi-pang” and they used to dip it in bagna cauda. It had a hard crust and soft in the middle (which is the part I liked). However, she would twist it in such a way that it had “horns” that I remember ripping off so I could tear out the soft middle and dip in the bagna cauda. Any idea what this bread was? I have looked everywhere for this recipe but haven’t had any luck.

    Reply
  13. Growing up in the southern Connecticut area in the 50s and 60’s , our school cafeteria was run by Italian ladies, many mothers of kids I played with. Every Friday we had spaghetti and they served a real good bread with it. It was baked in big sheet pans about 2-3 inches, had a texture of something like white cornmeal and the taste of cheese. I am 71, I miss it. Called back several years ago to find out if anyone remembers and the young, new folks don’t have a clue. These women I know now are dead. If they were still living they would be over 100. Has anyone tasted anything like that? I’m a grow Black girl now but, that italian taste from the bread is still torturing me ever since I was in Junior High and High school. If no one knows, I just might have to create something, that’s maybe what they did.

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  14. My grandparents always had a hard bread with most of their meals called “horn” bread.
    It was a very hard bread outside and soft inside, you would just break pieces no slicing.
    Do you know where you can find a recipe for this delicious bread?

    Reply
    • Hi. Hmm, mine ate the same thing. I’m not sure it can be easily made at home, given the ovens that it was baked in (big bread ovens). we alsways got it from the italian bakery that only made bread. they rarely exist now. IN NYC, Sullivan Street bakery supplies many restaurants. why not check their website? in Italy, it would probably come from Naples or Puglia or southern italy.

      Reply
  15. Hello, very interesting questions and answers here !,

    Tonight I was Watching an episode on DVD (in Italian with English subtitles to help my language learning!) of the fabulous Italian tv series “Don Matteo” – about a priest who helps the police solve crime..fabulous light humour and wonderful family and community characters as the Italians do so well.

    There was a scene showing some bread like circular (almost bagel shape) hard biscuit like rolls – with a very large hole—being brought out of the oven and Don Matteo having them for breakfast with jam etc. —-larger than taralli and maybe sesame seed on top —but have never seen them before and wonder if anyone knows what they are? Thanks!

    Reply
  16. We have just returned from a lovely stay with relatives of Italian friends of ours who live in the far south of Italy near Maria de Leuca. They served us with a delicious bread called semmedha which had onion and tomatoes in it and other ingredients. It was orange/ terracotta in colour and was gorgeous! Can’t even find any reference to it in the Internet, any chance you could send me the recipe? Thanks

    Reply
  17. Many years ago I spent some time in Naples and remember how the bread was crusty with almost a waxy centre, it was a chewy bread and like all things Italian, delicious. I sadly lost touch with the family I stayed with but would love the recipe if known!

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    • oh Jeez. Tough one. There are countless varieties of local breads, sometimes down to the village or neighborhood or family! And so much depends on the local flour and water.
      I’d google around and try to at least identify the closest name to what you are looking for and go from there. Buona Fortuna. Ed

      Reply

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