Italy Week

The Simple Pleasure of Everyday, 5-Ingredient Italian Bread

April  6, 2016

My grandfather Nonno Corrado's bread is simple: simple to make, simple to eat (with anything really.) It's five ingredients and hardly any work. And he taught it to me, so when I make it, I get to think about him.

A mischievous and headstrong kid, he grew up in a small town called Oliveto, in the outskirts of Bologna. He was always full of elaborate, almost unbelievable, stories from his youth, like recapturing Nazi-occupied grain mills when fighting with the resistance during WWII, or riding the length of Italy on a motor scooter with my mom and uncle strapped to his back. That sort of wild, colorful past instilled in him a profound respect for the steadfast things in his life, like teaching math, growing plants, and making bread.

Some may say he channeled his youthful energy into a fanatical obsession with these simple pleasures. For instance, Nonno grew tomatoes, his pride and joy. He would sit in his backyard and watch the sun, marking with chalk its trajectory, so that he knew the location in the yard which received the most exposure for his beloved plants. That same meticulousness reared its head when he set his mind to recreating his grandmother's bread.

Photo by Andre Aloshine

The testing phase alone lasted years. He weighed materials and mixed them in different stages. He tried different brands of yeasts, flours, olive oils. At one point someone bought him a grain mill, which he used until, with utter certainty, he told us that supermarket flour was better for this recipe.

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Several years before he passed away, he made it his mission to pass on his bread recipe. He flew to America to teach us exactly how to make it, which he didn't need to do because the instructions were characteristically precise. To this day, when I stare down at a misshapen attempt at his loaf, I can still hear his voice saying, “The oven makes everything beautiful”.

Photo by Andre Aloshine

He was right, the recipe could take a little heat. It was his simple legacy to us. A simple bread recipe to make every single day, just like he did for years, right after a trip to pick the snails off the tomato plants.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Pisanella
  • Alexandra French
    Alexandra French
  • Jasmine
  • healthierkitchen
  • Vittorio Degli-Esposti
    Vittorio Degli-Esposti
Pasta lover, food history nerd, baking disaster culprit


Pisanella June 4, 2016
That's because it's NOT Tuscan! Tuscan bread never has salt in it. Nice recipe, though.
Alexandra F. April 19, 2016
LOVE this article! Can't wait to try at home! Way to go Francesca!!
Jasmine April 18, 2016
12.5 g of active yeast!?! That's shocking! An entire teaspoon on my part is only about 1g...
Francesca A. April 18, 2016
Hi Jasmine- a few people have had this question. When I weighed it out, it was about a packet and a half. That said, many people have made this bread with just 1 packet and it worked fine!
healthierkitchen April 7, 2016
thank you for sharing! I was wondering about the salt, so it makes sense that per your uncle this is a bread from a nearby region.
Vittorio D. April 7, 2016
Thank you Francesca for this nice article! It will make many people smile while tasting Nonno’s bread, and made all of us in the family shed a few tears while recalling my father and our life with him.
Actually Nonno’s bread is not exactly “Tuscan”, it’s similar to Pavullo’s bread from the hilly slopes of Emilia, where Nonno grew up.
You can find a note on this kind of bread here:
Vittorio (Francesca’s uncle)
Ali S. April 6, 2016
This is the best Tuscan bread I ever have tasted. Simple yes, but it had flavor and a fluffy yet just crusty enough texture. Thank you Nonno Corrado—and Francesca for sharing it with us.