In Italy they say: “As good as bread”….now, try to imagine how many ways there are of being good, among more than 250 different kinds of Italian bread!
Every region has its own one: pitta in Calabria, rosetta in Lazio, pan de frizze in Friuli, the famous piadina in Emilia-Romagna, Altamura bread in Puglia, Sardinian ‘carasau’, the ‘grissini’ (breadsticks) from Turin, pane sciocco (without salt) in Tuscany.
Italian bread has many uses in cooking: it is eaten with cheeses and cold cuts; or as a panino (sandwich), filled with anything you want, if browned, it’s the perfect base for soups, it can be mixed in salads; you can even order it, as a starter, a mix of crostini – small crunchy bread slices covered with all kinds of sauces.
Anyway, bread is the only thing that won’t be left off the table, at lunch or dinner time.
Water, durum or soft wheat and yeast: these are the basic ingredients for common and the cheapest bread, which can be more or less salty. Beside it, you can find many kinds of special bread. In the north some bread is made by mixing wheat and rice flours, and especially near the mountain areas they add rye flour and spelt to the basic ingredients. In Romagna, the traditional pane giallo (yellow bread) has in its dough a high percentage of corn flour. If you move to the South, nearly everywhere you will see bread with green olives inside, while in Sicily you can taste bread flavoured with cumin, sesame and anise. And don’t forget that pizza, flat bread and many other tasty foods are prepared with the same ingredients!!!
Don’t worry, you only have to find a forno to taste them all! Forno has two meanings: bakery, and oven – so the place is named after the tool. The smaller the forno you go in, the better the bread you can buy; some bakeries have survived because for generations families have passed down the craft called arte bianca (white art: flour as a form of art).
Tuscan bread is very unique because it has no salt at all. People from other regions can’t stand it because they find it really unflavoured. Many historical explanations lie behind this tradition, but the most curious thing about it is the name. Indeed, sciocco is an adjective with two meanings: without salt, and stupid, with no common sense. So, we can assume the origin of this bread has a negative context.
Bread is a very important element in Tuscan cooking. It was considered a shame to throw away left and stale bread as people created many ways to reuse it. This is the reason why there are so many good Tuscan recipes that include bread, for example the bread salad called panzanella, the tomato soup pappa col pomodoro, the vegetables potage ribollita, and the fettunta, slices of crunchy bread spread with oil, garlic and salt, used as an appetizer or to taste the very first oil of the season.
Do you smell the aroma of freshly baked bread yet? Or better, imagine yourself eating it in the spring sunshine with these delicious Tuscan recipes? Well, you still have time to join our next cooking holiday to Tuscany this spring..