Tigella is a state of mind, a way of life, it’s in the DNA of Emilia’s people but especially of Modena’s ones.
Let’s start with their name.
In different areas they are called tigelle o crescentine (usually near Bologna and in the Apennines) but in Modena normally they are called “tigelle”, although the real name is “crescentina”, and I will explain you why.
In order to make you understand, I’m going to tell a little bit of their history. Although in the years you have probably seen different “tigellerie” (the tigelle shop), you’ve tried and you liked them (I don’t doubt about it!), I’ll take you a step back in order to make you understand why I think tigelle are a way of life and where they came from.
Once tigelle were a peasant food, a poor food, born in the country after the working days in the fields. They were prepared with simple ingredients (a dough made by flour, yeast, water and salt – a simple leavened bread) and then they were baked into two hot disks made of stone, that crushed the balls of dough creating little pasta disks of 2 cm of high. The stone disks were called tigelle: this is from where the name of this preparation comes. These disks, usually made of refractory stone or clay, had a carved decoration, the flower of life: a sacred symbol, that in Italy, as well as on tigella stones, is also present in crypts or churches walls. It is a star with six rays that for someone means rebirth and prosperity.
The dough was cooked by stacking the “tigelle” already hot from the fireplace, one above the other, putting them among leaves of chestnut or walnut in order not to make them stick to the stones. The next step was cutting the cooked result in half and stuffed it with “the king of Emilia“, the pork. In Emilia pork plays an important role with all its salami and “pesto”, prepared with bacon, garlic, rosemary and Parmesan cheese, the true essence of tigella. You can also eat tigelle with stewed rabbit or “hunter’s rabbit” (a special recipe with onions and peppers), whose sauce is used to fill them.
This is why “crescentina” is the correct name: it stands for a dough grown and cooked between “tigelle” made of stone.
But how can you prepare tigelle at home?
Ingredients are simple:
- 500 gr of flour
- 1 package of dry yeast
- 1 glass of water* at room temperature (check the consistency slowly while kneading)
- a pinch of sugar
- 2 pinches of salt
* (you can use also milk or sour cream instead of water but I prefer water).
Pour the flour into a bowl, add salt, sugar and the dry yeast. Mix everything and starts to pour water, begins to mix the dough until you get a soft result not liquid, solid, that remains slightly stuck to the hands. Make you rest it for at least two hours, covered with a film, in a sheltered spot, not near drafts. I usually put it into the oven.
Once leaven there are two techniques to obtain tigelle: first you can roll out all the dough half a centimeter high and form disks with the glass, second you can make micro balls (I use this) and roll out each crescentina with a rolling pin. I find that in this way they are going to be more authentic.
Then, there are today different solutions for cooking them, no more stone disks in the fireplace ( 😉 ) but an electrical “tigelliere” (a special appliance to cook tigelle) or cast iron plates for the stove to turn on both sides while cooking.
Once cooked tigelle you’ve done!
It’s enough to have on the table: salami, ham, mortadella, bacon, “modenese pesto”, Parmesan cheese or soft cheese to fill them.
Tigelle have to be served together with a sparkling wine: Lambrusco wine is perfect!
Joy, fun, sharing and collaboration are what you are going to bring on your tables or in the room where you are eating tigelle.
Oh yeah! Don’t you believe me? Try them in a restaurant in Modena and then we’ll talk about again 🙂
That’s why I think the tigella is a lifestyle, a mindset.
Modenese people are used to eat together, pass each other the cold cuts, eat with their own hands (you don’t need knife and fork to eat tigelle) and fill tigelle abundantly. We always prepare more tigelle than those we need because we love that our guests feel well.
Tigelle recipe is also on Steller: