A great sandwich starts with the bread. And when it comes to Italian sandwiches, the bread makes all the difference. Whether it’s a simple lunchtime sandwich or a fancy sub for a party, choosing the right bread is crucial.
Italian sandwich bread should be crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, and be able to hold a plethora of ingredients while still complimenting all the goodness inside.
What are the best Italian Sandwich Breads? We’ve all heard of focaccia, Ciabatta, and Pane Toscana, but did you know that there are even more Italian sandwich bread options?
In this blog, let’s explore the best Italian sandwich bread that will enhance your sandwich experience and leave you wanting more.
How to Choose the Best Italian Sandwich Bread
The Italians mastered the art of making amazing sandwiches, which only taste better because of the bread they use. Whether it’s a classic Panini, a hearty submarine, or a mouth-watering focaccia, your sandwich experience mainly depends on the bread you use.
Before looking at the varieties, let’s take a look at the indicators of high-quality Italian sandwich bread.
1. The Texture
The first thing to consider while picking out the perfect Italian sandwich bread is its texture.
A good Italian sandwich bread must have a firm and crusty exterior, while the interior should be soft and fluffy. This perfect combination of textures lets you enjoy your sandwich without the bread becoming too dry, crunchy, or soggy.
2. The Flavor
Italian bread is known for its distinctive flavor, often created by the use of olive oil and semolina flour. Choosing a bread that will complement your sandwich fillings and add another layer of flavor is essential.
For instance, if you’re making a meatball sub, you might want to consider using a hard-crusted roll for some crunch and a softer bread like Ciabatta for added texture and flavor.
When it comes to bread, freshness is crucial. Nothing ruins an Italian sandwich quite like stale bread. Thus, it’s always a good idea to pick up your sandwich bread from a reputable bakery that offers fresh and homemade loaves.
If you’re buying bread from the local supermarket, check the ‘best before’ date and make sure the bread remains fresh until you’re ready to use it.
4. Size and Shape
The perfect Italian bread size and shape depend on the sandwich you’re planning to make.
If you’re using the bread for a Panini or grilled sandwich, a little thinner and longer loaf might be perfect. On the other hand, for a classic submarine, a larger and more rounded pastry will make the ideal choice.
5. Dietary Restrictions
If you are gluten-sensitive, ensure that the bread you choose is gluten-free. Or, if you are looking for lower-carb alternatives, you can opt for bread made from almond or coconut flour.
How to Pair Italian Sandwich Bread With the Right Filling
Making a great sandwich requires choosing the right bread to go with your filling. Let’s take a look at how to pick the perfect Italian bread for your sandwich.
1. Know Your Varieties
The first step in selecting the perfect Italian bread for your sandwich is to know what varieties are available. Some popular types of Italian bread include Ciabatta, focaccia, and of course, the classic baguette-shaped variety.
Each type of Italian bread has its own unique texture, flavor, and shape that can complement different types of fillings. For example, Ciabatta is a great choice for fillings such as cheese or cured meats, while focaccia pairs well with grilled veggies or creamy dips.
2. Consider Your Sandwich Filling
The filling in your sandwich will also help you determine which type of Italian bread to choose.
If you’re using sliced deli meats, dense, crusty bread will work well to hold everything together. If you’re using a spread or dip, like pesto or hummus, you may want to choose a bread with a soft, airy interior that can soak up the flavors.
For something with a lot of texture, like a meatball sub, a chewy, crispy bread like a Ciabatta would be perfect.
So, it is important for your sandwich bread to match its filling!
3. Don’t Forget About Seasonings
Many types of Italian bread come with added seasonings, which can bring an extra burst of flavor to your sandwich.
Some common seasonings include garlic, rosemary, and oregano. If you’re using a strong-flavored filling like pepperoni or capicola, you may want to choose bread with a milder seasoning, like classic Italian bread.
If your filling is a bit more subtle, garlic or rosemary bread could be a perfect complement.
4. Consider the Texture
The texture of your bread is also important when selecting your Italian sandwich bread.
A softer bread, like Ciabatta or focaccia, may be easier to eat for those with sensitive teeth or jaw pain. A denser bread, like traditional Italian bread, can hold up to the weight of heavy fillings without getting soggy.
Lastly, presentation is an often-overlooked factor in sandwich making. The way your sandwich looks can greatly affect your enjoyment of it. The shape and size of your bread should match the type of sandwich you’re making, and the bread shouldn’t overpower the filling.
Take time to arrange your filling in a visually appealing way, and consider toasting your bread to add flavor and texture to the sandwich.
11 Best Italian Sandwich Breads
If you are curious about the variety of sandwich breads out there, you are not alone! Let’s check out 11 options for the best Italian sandwich bread below.
Focaccia is a flat, oven-baked bread that originated in Liguria, Italy, dating back as early as the Roman Empire.
It has a moist texture and is topped with olive oil, herbs, salt, and sometimes other toppings like olives, tomatoes, or onions. The bread dough traditionally has high hydration, which results in a softer, more pliable texture that’s perfect for sandwiches or dipping in oil and vinegar.
Focaccia’s chewy texture and subtle flavor make it an ideal sandwich bread, particularly for sandwiches with savory ingredients.
The classic Italian Focaccia sandwich is a testament to the simplicity of Italian cuisine. This sandwich combines rosemary-infused Focaccia bread with thinly sliced prosciutto, fresh basil, and sliced tomato for a refreshing and satisfying bite.
The saltiness of the prosciutto is balanced beautifully with the herbaceous notes of the rosemary, while the tomato adds a welcome juiciness.
2. Pane Toscana
Pane Toscana, also known as Tuscan bread, is a simple white bread that originated in Tuscany, Italy. It has a dense appearance and chewy texture and a slightly sour taste due to the lack of salt in the recipe.
During the Middle Ages, Pisa and Florence were at war, and the Pisans blocked the salt trade to Florence. As a result, Tuscan bakers had to make bread without salt.
To make Pane Toscana, the dough requires a long rise time to develop gluten, which gives the bread its chewy texture. It’s traditionally shaped into a round loaf and baked in the oven until golden brown.
Pane Toscana is best served with hearty dishes like soup, stews, or roasted meats.
3. Pizza Bianca
Pizza Bianca, also known as White Pizza, is a simple, flatbread-style pizza that originated in central Italy. Unlike traditional pizza, it’s not topped with tomato sauce or cheese. Instead, it’s topped with olive oil, sea salt, and sometimes herbs like rosemary or thyme.
The crust is crispy with a slightly chewy texture. The dough is similar to focaccia but with less oil and toppings. It’s rolled out thin and baked in a hot oven until crispy and golden brown.
Pizza Bianca is a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer or alongside main dishes like pasta or roasted vegetables.
Piadina is a classic flatbread common in the Emilia-Romagna and Romagna regions of Italy. It is made with flour, water, and lard and is cooked on a hot plate or griddle.
Piadina is often filled with cured meats, cheese, and vegetables, making it a perfect on-the-go snack. The bread is also enjoyed as a meal, often served alongside a salad or soup.
Piadina is easy to make, and the recipe is versatile, making it a perfect option for both vegetarians and meat lovers.
5. Coppia Ferrarese
Coppia Ferrarese, also known as pretzel bread, is a classic Italian bread made with flour, water, and malt. The name “coppia” refers to the shape of the bread, which is twisted into a knot.
The dough is boiled before being baked, giving it a distinct chewy texture. Coppia Ferrarese is a staple in the Ferrara region of Italy and is often enjoyed as an accompaniment to traditional dishes such as cotechino e zampone, a slow-cooked pork sausage.
Ciabatta, a classic Italian bread popularized in the 1980s, the bread’s recipe and origin are hotly debated among bakers. Some believe it was created in Verona, while others suggest it came from the Veneto region.
Regardless, Ciabatta is often used to make sandwiches and is typically made with white flour, salt, yeast, and olive oil. The bread has a unique porous texture that makes it perfect for soaking up juices and flavors from meats and sauces.
Friselle is a small, round, baked good that originated in the Puglia region of southern Italy. It is also known as Frisella or fresella, and it is made of durum wheat, salt, yeast, and water.
Friselle has a dense texture and a hard crust that allows it to last for several weeks, which makes it a staple for sailors and travelers. The traditional way of enjoying Friselle is to soak it briefly in water before topping it with tomatoes, olive oil, and salt.
However, nowadays, it’s also common to find friselle topped with ingredients such as capers, anchovies, and cheese or sweet toppings like honey and figs.
8. Brioche Col Tuppo
Brioche is a French pastry widely adapted and loved all around the world. Brioche col Tuppo is an Italian twist on this French classic.
However, the Sicilians preferred to add their touch, resulting in a fluffier, more buttery brioche that paired perfectly with hot coffee or tea.
Brioche Col Tuppo’s preparation process is long, precise, and indulgent. Unlike other bread-making processes, its recipe consists of a sizable amount of butter, eggs, and sugar, making it a sweet bread rather than a focaccia-type bread.
To get the characteristic top knot, a small piece of brioche dough is wrapped and sealed with a mixture of sugar and egg yolk. This mixture coats the composition, giving it a golden and shiny finish when baked.
The bread’s signature soft texture and sweet flavor are what sets brioche col tuppo apart from other bread varieties.
Brioche Col Tuppo is soft and airy, similar to a soft cotton candy texture that just melts in your mouth. The richness of butter adds extra creaminess to the bread, making it more indulgent and dense in flavor.
Its sweetness perfectly complements savory dishes or as a delicious breakfast, especially when eaten toasted with butter or jam. You can also enjoy it plain or use it to make a classic French toast or a delicious bread pudding.
9. Pane Di Segale
Pane Di Segale is a type of Italian rye bread that originated in the northern regions of Italy. It’s made with a mix of rye flour, white flour, sourdough starter, water, and salt.
The unique quality of Pane Di Segale lies in its dense texture, rich flavor, and chewy crust. It’s perfect for pairing with cured meats, cheeses, and soups or for making sandwiches.
Pane Di Segale also has health benefits, as it’s high in fiber and provides more nutrients than traditional wheat bread.
10. Pane Di Matera
Pane di Matera, also known as Matera bread, has been a staple food item among Materans for hundreds of years. The bread is traditionally made using only a few simple ingredients – water, mother yeast, and durum wheat flour.
The dough will rise for several hours and then bake in a wood-fired oven, making it crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside.
One of the most distinctive features of Pane di Matera is its shape – a round, flat loaf with a diameter of about 30 cm and a height of 10-12 cm.
The dough is worked by hand, and the bread is kneaded for a long time to develop the gluten and give it its characteristic texture.
The baking process also requires experienced bakers who know how to adjust the humidity and temperature of the oven to achieve the perfect result.
Thanks to the bread’s unique texture, it is an amazing accompaniment to bruschettas or to complement a variety of cheeses in a rich charcuterie board.
11. Baba Rustico
Baba Rustico bread is known for its intense flavor, rustic texture, and visually appealing exterior. It is made using a long fermentation process that allows the dough to develop a distinctive depth of flavor.
Baba Rustico bread is typically shaped into a round or oval loaf with a thick and crunchy crust that is commonly dusted with flour. The inside of the loaf is soft, chewy, and light.
Baba Rustico bread is versatile and goes well with many different types of food. It pairs well with a variety of Italian cheeses, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and with meats like prosciutto, salami, and mortadella.
This bread also makes it a perfect sandwich bread combined with your favorite ingredients. You can toast it or use it as a base for bruschetta. Baba Rustico bread is also an ideal accompaniment to any Italian meal.