Tigelle are one of the most classic debate topics of Emilia Romagna's food. During our Bologna tours I usually say that in Italy we love to slightly change name and few ingredients of a recipe, if you move just a few km from one town to another. 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, so it's time to put the light on them.
The name tigelle refers to clay discs about 15cm large and 1.5 cm thick, built with chestnut land grinded 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.
Nowadays in fact, the cooking is made in a faster manner, placing the balls of dough between two plates of 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".
Tigelle ready to be cutted and filled with pesto or cold cuts
How to eat them
After cooking, the tigella is cut in half when is still very hot, and filled with various toppings. The most traditional is pesto, a mixed sauce made with chopped pork lard, rosemary, garlic and a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano (known as cunza of Modena, 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.
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 the best tigelle
On our brand new Modena Food Tour you can have the chance to taste 3 different gourmet tigelle in one of my favorite place in Modena 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
3 different tigelle at "I Tigellanti": coppa di testa, tuscan salami, ricotta cheese and fig jam
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]