Tigelle are one of the most classic debate of Emilia Romagna's food.
If you ask for tigelle in Modena you get a typical bread, usually served with meat and cheese or pesto.
But their story is much more complex and interesting. It's time to shed some light on them.
Crescentine or tigelle? The history so far
The name tigelle refers to clay discs about 15cm large and 1.5 cm thick, built with chestnut land ground and moulded into a wooden mould with bas-relief engravings, then dried and finally cooked.
In ancient times, farmers of Appennino mountains had to feed poor and usually numerous families.
So they used to cook small balls of dough called crescentine on the clay discs, the tigelle, already heated in the fireplace, and altering them with chestnut or walnut leaves to separate the dough from the pottery and to keep them clean from ashes.
Today crescentina is called tigella by many, referring to the old cooking method mostly no longer applied.
Today tigelle are cooked in a cast iron mould called tigelliera
Nowadays the cooking is made in a faster manner, placing the balls of dough between two plates of a metallic material, in machines specially prepared for this use.
At home, you can use aluminium moulds which contains from 4 to 7 tigelle to be affixed directly on the flame, as a normal pan.
The mould, of course, is called tigelliera.
How to eat tigelle
After cooking, tigelle are cut in half when still very hot and filled with various toppings.
The most traditional is pesto modenese: a mixed sauce made with chopped pork lard, rosemary, garlic and a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. In Modena it's also known as cunza, the same seasoning used for borlenghi.
Over time, tigelle have been subject to less traditional but very tasty unions like cold cuts, cheese, jams or chocolate creams for dessert.
3 different tigelle at I Tigellanti : coppa di testa, tuscan salami, ricotta cheese and fig jam
The recipe of tigelle
Ingredients (for 8 servings)
1.5 kg of '00' flour
3 dl water
- Work the flour with water and salt on a wooden board until it forms a compact and uniform dough. If you use tigelliera add yeast and a drop of milk to the dough
- Divide the mixture to form small balls as big as a fist. After a 2h rest, work each portion to give it the shape of a disc about 10 cm large and 1 cm thick
- Let tigelle rest for about 20min and then cook them with refractory stones which simulate ancient stones: tigelle are ready when the crust takes on a uniform gold color.
Where to eat tigelle in Bologna and Modena
On our Modena Food Tour you can have the chance to taste 3 different gourmet tigelle in one of my favorite place, but if have the time to travel around here's a shortlist of great places.
The best tigelle and gnocco (a fried bread typical of Modena and Emilia Romagna) I've ever had are made is this stall near Amendola park. Don't expect a restaurant, it's a place with plastic chairs and paper dishes but the quality of meat, cheese and tigelle is at the top.
Viale dell'Autodromo, 35, 41126 Modena MO
Tel. 059 332835
Andrea and his wife opened this place in June 2016 but their experience in making bread and tigelle comes from generations. They use only organic ingredients and no fat for their tigelle which are really easy to digest. The selection of meat and cheese is amazing, try one with lardo of Zivieri butcher or one sweet with their home-made fig jam and ricotta cheese.
Via Vinazzetti, 1, 40126 Bologna
Tel. 348 015 6263
Family business since 2004, this restaurant recently won the prize for the best tigella of Modena. They like to change the shape of tigelle according to season, so you can find a heart-shaped tigella for St.Valentine of a Christmas tree-shaped in December.
Via Modenese, 543, 41057 Spilamberto MO
Tel. 059 785175
Heart-shaped tigelle at L'Amaretto - Photo: Tripadvisor