It's the last week of November! This means not only the end of Thanksgiving and the official start of the Christmas season, but also that it is time for this month's round of Cucina Conversations (!!!) This month our theme is pane, or bread. I happen to be a big fan of making my own bread, as evidenced by this challah bread, these bagels, these maritozzi, this pizza bianca, and this focaccia. I've said it before and I've said it again -- bread making is more wait than work, a bit of mixing and kneading paired with lots of resting and rising from the dough. It's really not all that difficult, and the whole process is pretty cool to witness -- what starts out as a bit of flour, yeast, and water transforms into a dough that then doubles in size and then, with a little time in the oven, magically morphs in to a loaf of bread. And it gives you bragging rights among your friends, because you made your own bread

Quindi! My selection for this month's theme are tigelle, small round breads typical of the Emilia-Romagna region, particularly the province of Modena but also common in Bologna, where I lived for a year. Tigelle are split and then stuffed with meat, cheeses, or vegetables, and are
 traditionally eaten as an antipasto. That being said, they can also easily be a full meal in their own right, which is exactly what I did when I lived in Bologna, with frequents visits to Tigelleria Tigellino, right near the city's main piazza. Fun fact: the name tigella comes from the tool that was traditionally used to shape and cook them, clay, fire-resistant discs called a tigelle, which were alternated and stacked with the uncooked dough to ultimately create a sort of tigelle tower that was placed by the fire and left to cook (you can see how it was done here). Now that we've mostly left cooking things by fire behind, there are more modern tigelle available, ones that are made from aluminum and placed over the stove (they look like this). 

My recipe research showed that there is no one way to make tigelle; some recipes called for doppio zero flour (a super fine, pure white flour) while others recommended all-purpose; some used milk as a liquid ingredient, while others advised cream, and still others a combination of both; a few recipes recommended cooking the tigelle in the oven, others on the stove in a pan, and some in the aforementioned modern day tigella. The common ingredient in all recipes appeared to be strutto (straightforward translation: pig fat, easily found in supermarkets here) but some recipes I stumbled across used a mix of oil and strutto or simply oil or butter, for those who might have qualms about using strutto. Hmm.

In the end, I came up with this recipe -- 00 flour because it's what I had on hand, whole milk because strutto seemed heavy enough without adding cream, cooked on the stovetop --
 all of which resulted in perfectly puffy, delicately golden brown tigelle, fluffy and soft on the inside and slightly crisper on the outside, the perfect vehicle for my chosen ingredients, or rather, salame piccante, prosciutto, stracchino cheese, and arugula. I ate the three you see photographed above for lunch, then maybe another two or so, before tucking the remaining ones into a bag to keep for, ehm, a midnight snack lunch the next day. I hope you do the same.

A couple of notes: Strutto is used widely in Italian cuisine, an ingredient in piadine from Bologna, seadas from Sardinia, and schiacciatine from Mantova, plus used in the frying of Sicilian cannoli. It is difficult to find in the U.S (I've tried!) and I'd guess also in other countries that aren't Italy. You can substitute butter or olive oil here with good results. Tigelle can be filled with any kind of meat, cheese, or vegetables you'd like - prosciutto, stracchino, and arugula is my favorite. If you want to cook them in the oven, preheat the oven to 370 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Place the tigelle on a baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes, turning them half way through the cooking time to ensure both sides are golden brown. Whether you use the oven or the stove, the tigelle should puff up (magical!) as they cook.

As always, here are the November Cucina Conversations recipes from my fellow bloggers (a few have opted out this month but will be back in December!) -- 

Daniela of La Dani Gourmet is sharing her recipe for focaccia ligure.

Lisa aka Italian Kiwi has made focaccia di recco.

Last but not least, Carmen at The Heirloom Chronicles has made rosette di pane, a classic Roman bread.


2 cups (500 grams) 00 flour, or all-purpose flour in a pinch
1/3 cup (80 ml) water, plus more if needed
1/3 (80 ml) whole milk, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon (10 grams) yeast
2 tablespoons (15 grams) strutto (or olive oil or butter, see notes above) room temperature
3/4 teaspoon (7 grams) salt

Meat, cheese, and vegetables of your choosing for the filling

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and milk, whisking everything together. If you're doing this by hand: put the flour in another larger bowl, make a hole in the middle of the flour, and pour in the yeast-water-milk mixture. 
If you're doing this with a standing mixer, do the same exact thing as above, just in the bowl of the standing mixer. Next, mix everything together with a wooden spoon (or with the paddle attachment of your standing mixer). If the dough seems dry (it probably will) add more milk and water (a tablespoon of each) until the dough starts to come together. I think I ended up having to add about 1/3 cup more liquid.
Add the strutto or olive oil/butter and salt, and mix together again. If you're doing this by hand, at this point, you should turn the dough that is starting to form out on to a lightly floured work surface and start to knead until the dough comes together. 
Knead for another 8-10 minutes or until a smooth elastic dough forms. If you're doing this with a standing mixer, you can knead the dough using the dough hook attachment (lucky you!) When you're done kneading, form the dough in to a ball, place it in a bowl covered with a kitchen cloth, and let it rise in a warm, dry place for 2 hours, or until it doubles in volume.
Once the two hours are up, place your ball of dough on a lightly floured work surface and with a rolling pin roll it out until very thin, about 1/2 a centimeter. 
Using a 3-4 inch (8-10 cm) lightly floured cookie cutter, cut out as many tigelle as you can. Combine the scraps in to a ball, re roll the dough, and repeat until you have used all the dough. You should have 20-25 or so tigelle.
Set the tigelle on baking sheet and let them rise for another 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes are up, you can start to cook your tigelle. If you want to cook them on the stove: heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook the tigelle, turning, until puffed and brown on both sides (this will take about 6 or so minutes). 
Let the tigelle cool, then slice them open, fill with ingredients of your choosing, and enjoy. Makes 20-25 tigelle.


  1. Like you Francesca, I'm a big fan of baking bread, despite the waiting. There's something about processes like these that I love. Your tigelle look lovely and soft. They remind me of the pan-baked bread I make sometimes. And your photos are very instructive too. One to try!

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  3. I just love tigelle! This has motivated me to try to make them at home. I may have to use butter or oil though, as I've tried to use the french "strutto" for another Italian recipe, but somehow, it's different. I'm not sure why!

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