We just had a quiet dinner at home. Nonna is off with her eldest son, so it was time to break out the long noodles and bake some bread.

Nonna’s no longer a fan of noodles – spaghetti, linguine, pappardelle – so we don’t have them as often as we used to. Tonight, we broke out the last of the meter-long mafaldine and baked little rolls from Florence. We’re such rebels.

Victor made a sauce by blending a jar of his homemade sauce with a jar of the eggplant I canned last summer. He mixed in some freshly grated cheese and we had total perfection. Simply topped with fresh basil and more freshly-grated cheese. We served it on the dishes we bought in Florence and it was the perfect touch. It’s amazing how things really can taste differently based on what they’re served on. It’s one of the reasons we have so many different styles of plates – and never use paper no matter how large the crowd. If you’re going to take the time to make it – serve it right!

The rolls were a take on a recipe from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker. I bought this book 30 years ago and it’s still my favorite bread book. I just found out that Carol Field died last month – she was only 76… She will definitely live on in our house.

I wanted to make rolls instead of a loaf of bread, and thought the Semele rolls would be fun. I had some biga in the ‘fridge that needed using up – biga is an Italian starter – so I played with her recipe to incorporate it and still make 10 rolls. If you don’t use a biga, increase the flour to about 3 1/2 cups. And use all-purpose instead of the Italian “00”.

Semelle are little rolls from Florence. I went through the pictures we took of Florence and didn’t see any in the places where we ate, but ... we didn’t eat everywhere or go to every bakery. The rolls are really good!


Adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field

  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active 
dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 cups “00” flour
  • 1 cup biga
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Olive oil for brushing

Stir the yeast into the water and let stand until creamy. Add the flour and biga. Mix until the dough is solid and elastic – 6-8 minutes.

First Rise.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Shaping and Second Rise.

Cut the dough into ten equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Brush a little oil over each and let rest 10 minutes under a towel.

With the edge of your hand, make a deep indentation down the center of each ball – be sure to press down firmly.

Place the rolls, cleft side down, on floured parchment paper. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.


Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Just before baking, turn each roll over and reemphasize the cleft. Place the rolls – cleft side up – on a baking sheet dusted with corn meal.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes, spraying the rolls three times with water in the first 10 minutes.

The whole batch of dough weighed 30 ounces, so it was easy to make 10 rolls of 3 ounces each.

They had a great chewy crust and a really light interior. I think without the indentation, these would make a great hamburger bun.

These are super easy to make – I know I’ll be making more…