Penne all’arrabbiata (angry penne) is a classic dish from the Roman cucina povera. A few ingredients, well chosen, make a dish of a incomparable taste. King in this recipe is the chilli pepper.
15 hrs 45 min
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
Let me tell you about Tuscan bread, one of the true stars of Tuscan cuisine. You know what’s unique about it? It’s made without salt! Yep, that’s right – no salt at all. This unsalted bread is a key ingredient in some of Tuscany’s most famous dishes like panzanella, cacciucco, Tuscan soup, and pappa al pomodoro. And that’s just scratching the surface! There are loads of Tuscan recipes that use this special bread.
How to serve it
- Appetiser: Slice the bread and serve it alongside a variety of flavourful dips, like olive tapenade, olive oil and vinegar, or even homemade pesto. You could also create a beautiful charcuterie board with the bread, cured meats, cheeses, olives, and marinated veggies.
- Soups and Stews: This bread is perfect for dipping into hearty soups and stews or soaking up delicious sauces.
- Bruschetta: Lightly toast slices of the bread, rub them with a cut garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil, and top with diced tomatoes, basil, and a sprinkle of salt.
- Bread Salad: Use day-old bread to make panzanella, a traditional Tuscan bread salad with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and fresh herbs, all dressed in a tangy vinaigrette.
So, why no salt in Tuscan bread?
Well, we’ve got to take a trip back in time to mediaeval Tuscany to find the answer. Back then, salt was super valuable, so much so that it was even used as a form of payment (that’s where we get the word “salary” from!).
In Tuscany, salt was extracted near Volterra, at the famous Saline di Volterra. This ancient Etruscan city eventually became part of the Republic of Pisa. Fast forward to a time when Florence was expanding its territory in Tuscany, and they ended up clashing with Pisa quite a bit. As a form of retaliation, Pisa imposed high taxes on salt trade towards Florence, making the price of salt skyrocket.
That’s when the resourceful Tuscans started making bread without salt, and it became a beloved tradition in their cuisine. Even the great poet Dante Alighieri mentioned it in the Divine Comedy!
What makes Tuscan bread so special?
Originally, it had an irregular, round shape. Today, you’ll find it in a variety of shapes like rounded, rectangular, or slightly ovoid, usually weighing around 500 kg. The crust is super fragrant, crunchy, and golden, while the inside is white, soft, and has an irregular crumb.
Since 2014, Tuscan bread has been honoured with DOP certification, thanks to its unique characteristics. Its most famous feature is the subtle, not-too-overpowering taste, which comes from the grains used and the mother yeast. This makes it perfect for pairing with savoury foods, as it doesn’t mask their flavours.
Tuscan bread is high in carbs and low in fat, so enjoy in moderation if you’re watching carbs. To make it more balanced, pair it with protein-rich foods and consider using whole wheat flour for added fiber. Remember to include a variety of other nutritious foods in your diet.
- Proteins 13% 13%
- Carbs 82% 82%
- Fats 1% 1%
In Italy we don’t really use sourdough starter, we use biga. Have you ever heard of biga? It’s a super cool pre-fermentation technique used in our baking. You’ll find it in many of your favourite Italian breads, like ciabatta. The magic of biga is that it adds a depth of flavour and helps create that light, airy texture with delightful holes that we all love in our bread.
Not only does biga enhance the flavour and texture of bread, but it also helps keep it fresh longer. Pretty awesome, right?
The story goes that biga techniques were developed when Italian bakers started using baker’s yeast and wanted to recreate the rich flavour that sourdough naturally brings. Unlike a sourdough starter, biga is usually drier and thicker, giving it a slightly nutty taste that sets it apart.
To make biga, you just need a little baker’s yeast mixed into a thick dough (with hydration levels ranging from 45 to 90%). Then, let it ferment for 12 to 16 hours to fully develop its unique flavour. And there you have it – fresh biga ready to elevate your Italian bread-making game!
Did you know the water temperature is super important when making this recipe? You’ll want to aim for a cosy 24°C to 28°C (75°F to 82°F). The best part is, you can easily adjust the water temperature based on the season. So, in the chilly winter months, go for warmer water, and during those sizzling summer days, cool it down towards the lower range. Easy, right?
Now let’s talk about hydration. This bread dough has a 61% hydration level, making it a soft dough. Don’t worry if it’s a bit sticky—that’s totally normal! Resist the urge to add more flour, trust me.
And one more thing to remember: we’re using a really strong flour in this recipe, which means it’ll soak up more water than a more refined flour would. So, stick with the recipe, and you’ll be all set for some delicious bread!
For this recipe, we’re all about using a strong bread flour like manitoba. Why, you ask? Well, strong white flour is the key to getting that perfect rise in your bread. When the protein in the flour, called gluten, absorbs water, it gets all stretchy and traps the carbon dioxide that the fermenting yeast creates.
Manitoba dough is extra elastic and strong, thanks to loads of insoluble proteins like glutenin and gliadin. When these proteins mingle with liquid in the dough, they create gluten—a true superhero in the bread world. Gluten forms an impressive network that holds onto the leavening gases, allowing your bread to puff up beautifully during cooking.
Traditional Tuscan Bread
- Total Time: 15 hrs 45 min
- Yield: 8 portions 1x
- Diet: Low Salt
- 500 grams of very strong bread flour, such as manitoba
- 300 milliliters of lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 30 grams sourdough starter or 10 grams of fresh yeast
- In a large bowl, mix 100 g (3/4 cup) of the flour with 50-60 ml (1/4 cup) of warm water. Add 10 g of brewer’s yeast or 25 g of sourdough starter, if you have it. Stir until a compact dough forms.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and cover with a clean cloth. Allow it to rise at room temperature for 12 hours. (Note: Proper proofing is essential for achieving great Tuscan bread, so don’t skip this step!)
- After the 12-hour rise, add the remaining 400 g (3 1/4 cups) of flour, 250 ml (1 cup) of water, sugar, and the rest of the sourdough starter to the dough. Knead vigorously until the dough is compact, elastic, soft, and no longer sticky.
- Dust a clean cloth with flour, place the dough on the cloth, and shape it into an elongated loaf. Wrap the cloth around the dough and let it rest for 2 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 220°C (425°F). Remove the dough from the cloth and place it in a floured baking pan.
- When the oven is preheated, place a heatproof dish filled with water in the oven along with the bread. Bake for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the dish of water from the oven, lower the temperature to 180°C (350°F), and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
- Check if the crust is a light brown colour, indicating that the bread is done. Turn off the oven and let the bread rest inside for 10-15 minutes to achieve a crunchy and tasty crust.
- Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool before enjoying it with your favourite Tuscan cold cuts and cheeses
The secret to success in this recipe lies in its lengthy fermentation process, so don’t be tempted to cut it short. For an even lighter and more digestible bread, you can use half the yeast and double the resting time.
In Italian baking, we cherish the use of biga, our traditional sourdough starter. It imparts a delightful flavour to various bread types, so don’t skip it in favour of just adding yeast. The absence of salt is compensated by the rich taste provided by the biga.
This bread serves as the perfect foundation for robust, salty cured meats and cheeses, elevating your culinary experience.
- Prep Time: 55 minutes
- Rest Time: 14 hours
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Category: Baking
- Method: Sourdough
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: bread, no salt, flour, yeast, tuscan cuisine