Italian Bread: All the Very Best Recipes (2024)

Italian bread – like pasta – is a kind of religion for Italians. You’ll find it in any Italian home, and if there’s any bread leftover, you can freeze it or recycle it in creative ways – never throw it away! There’s only one rule when it comes to Italian bread: never serve it upside down! This is an Italian taboo because as the saying goes, serving bread upside down might just make Mother Mary cry (‘piange la Madonna’). We weren’t kidding – it’s like a religion!

From grains and flour to the traditional dough recipes by region

Italian cuisine is beautiful because it varies from region to region – and this remains true for bread, as well: Italian pane has a thousand different varieties; from the South to the North, everyone makes it in their own way, using different grains for varying consistencies, though the basic dough is always made fundamentally from flour, water and yeast. So – let's explore the recipes of the most famous Italian breads in the world! For some of the most traditional recipes, however, you’d need a wood-burning oven for the desired result, but we’ve got some suggestions to work around this – even with a normal oven at home. Some of the following recipes require many hours to rise – that’s because the dough for certain recipes require the preparation of a dough base before making the dough itself. Other recipes are much simpler (and faster). As far as yeast is concerned, we always suggest using fresh brewer’s yeast instead of sourdough.

Pane Rustico (‘Rustic Bread’)

This bread is a classic ‘sfilatino’ (or ‘loaf’) that can be ‘sciapo’ (meaning ‘unsalted’ in Tuscan dialect). Or it can be salted, depending on personal preference. To make it, dissolve ½ oz fresh brewer's yeast in a little lukewarm water; then mix it with 1 lb regular flour and 3 cups water, adding only a pinch of salt at the end (if you want). Once the dough is smooth, let it rise for two hours covered with a cloth. Then knead it again. Give the dough a round or elongated loaf shape. Let rise for another two hours covered with a cloth. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes and let cool before slicing.

Pane Pugliese (‘Apulian Bread’)

Pane pugliese, also known as ‘pane di Altamura,’ features a softer and slightly chewier texture inside, with a crunchy crust. Start by making the dough base. Then mix 1 cup cake or pastry flour with ¼ oz yeast and 1 cup of water. Form a loaf shape and let it rise at room temperature for 12 hours (or overnight). The following day, add 2 oz semolina flour, 1 ½ cups water, ¼ oz fresh brewer's yeast, 1 tsp of honey and only 1 tsp of salt at the end. Once dough is smooth, let it rise for three hours covered with a cloth. Flour a pastry board and roll out the dough. Make three folds (i.e. pull the upper edge to the center and then cover with the lower edge. Turn the loaf 90 degrees and repeat the process once more. Let dough rise for another hour, then cut a deep ‘x’ on the surface of the dough with a knife. Bake for 50 minutes at 430°F. after heating the oven to 430 degrees, bake it for 50 minutes. Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool before slicing.

Italian ‘Michetta’ Bread

Michetta is a typical bread from Northern Italy; it is easily recognizable by its flower shape. It is a crunchy sandwich bread that features soft ‘bubbles’ inside that develop over a long period, with its particularly long preparation time (and equally long leavening times). The first step for this recipe (like the others) is preparation of the dough base. Then mix 14 oz pastry or cake flour with 1 ½ cups water and 1 tsp brewer's yeast. After leavening for about 20 hours (ideally at 140°F), use the dough base to make the dough. Dissolve 1 tsp malt, honey or sugar in ½ cup water at room temperature and add the dough base. Then add 14 oz pastry or cake flour with a pinch of salt and knead for about 5-6 minutes, preferably using a stand mixer. Transfer the dough onto a pastry board and cover for 10 minutes. Then roll it out slightly with a rolling pin to create a rectangular shape. Make a tri-fold shape (just as you would for the previous recipe). Cover for another 15 minutes. Repeat the process three times. Now form a ball, grease it slightly on the surface and let it rise for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 parts of about 3 oz each, forming 8 ball shapes. Flour each piece of dough and cover with plastic wrap and a cloth. Let rise for another 30 minutes. You can use an apple slicer (or make ‘rosette’ shapes with the proper tools), but make sure you don’t press too hard! Bake in the oven until golden-brown.

Pane Toscano (Italian ‘Tuscan’ Bread)

Another famous Italian recipe for bread? The Tuscan recipe – it’s delicious and perfect for dipping into pasta sauce after you’ve finished off the noodles (what we call the ‘scarpetta’ in Italian). Also great for making panzanelle with onion and tomatoes if the bread dries out. For the dough starter, mix 6 oz regular flour with a cup of water, a pinch of brewer's yeast and a drop of extra virgin olive oil. Let rise overnight covered with a cloth. After about 12 hours of rising, mix dough starter with 1 cup regular flour and 1 cup water. Cover with a cloth and let the dough rise for another 6 hours. After six hours of leavening, make a ‘seam’ in the dough, folding it in two. Roll it into a spiral. Transfer to a floured cloth and dust with a little flour. Let dough rise for another hour. Bake at 420°F for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and let it bake for another 40 minutes. Once baked, let the bread rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Rye Bread

Rye bread is full of energy with a high fiber content, and it’s rich in B vitamins and minerals. It also features anti-arteriosclerotic effects and studies have suggested that people who eat rye bread are less prone to cardiovascular disease. This type of bread is typical of the mountain areas of Northern Italy, but it’s also now well- known throughout the country. Boasting many nutritional properties, rye bread is also particularly loved by healthy eaters. To prepare rye bread, mix 14 oz rye flour with 4 oz Manitoba flour. Separately, dissolve a tsp brewer's yeast in ½ cup water and then add the yeast, another 2 ½ cups of water and a teaspoon of sugar to the flour. Add a pinch of salt and the dough is ready! Let it rise for two hours covered with a dish towel, then transfer to a baking tray after working the dough once more. Create desired loaf shape and let rise for two more hours. Bake at 420° for about 35 minutes.

Carasau Bread

Carasau bread, also called ‘carta musica’ in Italian (meaning ‘sheet of music’ in English), is the traditional bread from Sardinia. It features a very thin and crunchy dough that is used both as bread and as a base for the fast recipes and no-bake lasagna. To make it, create a fountain with 2 cups durum wheat semolina flour. Dissolve 1 tsp brewer's yeast in a little water and add it to the flour. Start kneading with 2 ½ cups water and finally, add the salt. Knead the dough for about ten minutes and then divide it into 16 balls. Place them on a floured pastry board a short distance from each other. Cover with a cloth and let the dough rise for at least 3 hours. After this time, flour them with a little semolina flour and roll them out with a rolling pin. Overlay them two at a time and stretch the dough out again using a rolling pin (avoiding creases). Place dough pieces on a baking tray that you previously left to heat in the oven at 420°F. Bake for 15-20 seconds or until they have swollen a little. Remove from the oven immediately and divide in two. After doing this with each piece of dough, place dough pieces individually on another baking tray. Bake for 8 minutes at 330°F. Once golden-brown, remove and let cool.

Italian bread without the yeast

Bread made without yeast is prepared very simply – with water, flour and salt. It can be baked in the oven or cooked on the stove. It’s a cross between an Italian piadina and unleavened bread, but it’s always an excellent solution for any time you don’t have bread at home – because you can make it instantly without yeast! Just mix 14 oz cake or pastry flour with 2 cups water, a pinch of salt and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil – for a slightly more intense flavor and crunchiness. Once the dough is ready, let it rest for an hour and then divide into smaller pieces. Roll each piece out a little (not too thin!) and cook for 2-3 minutes per side on a non-stick pan – or in the oven at 350°F for about 15 minutes.

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Italian Bread: All the Very Best Recipes (2024)


What makes Italian bread different from regular bread? ›

Italian bread often contains a bit of milk or olive oil, and sometimes a bit of sugar. French bread tends to be longer and narrower. Italian bread loaves tend to be shorter and plumper. French bread tends to be hard and crusty on the outside, with a light and soft crumb.

What is the name of the long Italian bread? ›

Filone. Moving to the northern regions of Italy, we encounter Filone—a traditional Italian bread that personifies simplicity and tradition. Hailing from areas like Piedmont and Lombardy, Filone is a long, oval-shaped loaf with a golden-brown crust and a tender crumb.

What is the oldest bread in Italy? ›

'Pane di Altamura' or Altamura's bread is one of the oldest bread varieties in Italy, with records showing the evidence of the bread being produced in 37 B.C. It is a bread that comes from Altamura, a town in the Alta Murgia region of Puglia in South Italy.

What is the most delicious bread in the world? ›

World's best breads: the list of winners
  • Butter garlic naan (India)
  • Nan-e barbari (Iran)
  • Pan de yuca (Colombia)
  • Focaccia di Recco col formaggio (Italy)
  • Baguette (France)
  • Naan (India)
  • Piadina Romagnola (Italy)
  • Tarte flambée (France)
Oct 4, 2023

What is the fluffy Italian bread called? ›

Focaccia is ½" to 1" thick with a light crust on the top and bottom. It's often described as "flatbread" or "Italian flat bread," but unlike the flat bread we're used to, it isn't flat at all, but thick and fluffy. The "flat" term in question simply refers to the pan in which it's baked compared to other breads.

What are 2 types of Italian bread? ›

Let's have a look at the most popular Italian bread types.
  • Pane casareccio | Pane toscano. This is the most common bread in Italy and comes in a loaf. ...
  • Rosetta or Michetta bread. ...
  • Panino all'olio. ...
  • Piadina. ...
  • Pizza Bianca. ...
  • Grissini Torinesi | Breadsticks. ...
  • Fresella. ...
  • Pane di Matera.
Sep 14, 2022

Why is my homemade Italian bread so dense? ›

Lack of gas and fermentation that makes the dough aerate results in dense and heavy bread. In these cases, it is either necessary to allow the dough to be proof longer or move it to the warmer room.

What makes Italian bread so good? ›

An Italian white bread made from wheat flour, water, salt, yeast and olive oil, the dual-textured nature of ciabatta makes it an amazing loaf for sandwiches. Those honeycomb-like nooks and crannies also make ciabatta a wonderful soup bread.

What do Italian eat for breakfast? ›

Other sweet options include maritozzi, the famous Italian sweet bread often found in Rome, or biscotti to go with your coffee. A healthy Italian breakfast might consist of some bread, butter, jam, some yogurt, and fruit. Italians also eat muesli and cereal in the mornings with yogurt or milk.

What is the name of Italian bread with olive oil? ›

Focaccia is a flat Italian bread flavoured with olive oil.

What is the crunchy Italian bread called? ›

Friselle (Crunchy Italian Bread) – Kevin Lee Jacobs.

What is the oldest Italian dish? ›

Testaroli has been described as "the earliest recorded pasta". It is also a native dish of the southern Liguria and northern Tuscany regions of Italy. Testaroli is prepared from a batter that is cooked on a hot flat surface, after which it may be consumed.

What is the most famous Italian bread? ›

The Ciabatta is one of the most appreciated Italian breads, even abroad. Its dough is soft and velvety. Its crust is crunchy and fragrant. Perfect as a sandwich to be filled in, but also excellent as table bread, paired with all kinds of dishes and cold cuts.

What is the shelf life of Italian bread? ›

Bread has a short shelf life, lasting just 3–7 days at room temperature. Proper sealing and storage, as well as using the refrigerator or freezer when needed, can help prevent mold and increase shelf life. If you see mold, you should throw away the whole loaf, as mold can produce harmful mycotoxins.

What is the difference between ciabatta and Italian bread? ›

The main difference between these two loaves of bread comes down to the hydration levels. Ciabatta is baked with a much higher hydration level, making the holes within the dough much bigger than a baguette. Ciabatta is also baked with a much stronger flour, which has a more delicate and sweet taste.

What bread is used in Italy? ›

While different types exist in various regions of the country, ciabatta has become almost synonymous with sandwich bread across Italy. The well-seasoned soft bread is also popular for dipping into pasta sauce.

Where is the best bread in Italy? ›

It may be controversial — in fact, we know it is — but many Italians believe the best bread comes from the region of Puglia. The town of Altamura in Southeast Italy is known for its traditional large knots of bread called Pane di Altamura. Read on to learn what makes this “Priest's Hat” bread so special.

Why does Italian bread taste better? ›

Baking Techniques: Italian bread is typically baked in a hot and humid oven, which helps to create a crispy crust and a soft, airy interior. The ovens used in Italian bakeries are often stone or brick-lined, allowing for even heat distribution and moisture retention.


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