Grissini from Gragnano

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Terrific artisan breadsticks from the good people at Pastificio Gentile

I’ve eaten many grissini (thin, crisp breadsticks) over the years while visiting Italy, but most, to my taste, have been rather unremarkable—something to snack on while waiting for a wonderful meal to get started. The grissini from Pastificio Gentile in the town of Gragnano on Italy’s west coast are the complete opposite—they’re something to seek out. Tammie and I have bought four or five boxes now from the Deli over the last few months. Where I usually leave breadsticks behind and reach for sliced bread, with these, I just keep eating them!

Pastificio Gentile is, along with Rustichella and Mancini, one of the artisan pasta producers whose products I love. It’s owned and run by the Zampino family who’ve been in the pasta business for 140 years! A few years ago, they expanded their work with wheat to begin baking biscuits, panettone, colomba, and grissini! I’m happy to say the grissini are as good as the pasta! The flour for the grissini is specially selected from a small company in Puglia. Making them takes two days—the dough is mixed in the afternoon, then left to rest overnight. Natural brewer’s yeast is used for production, which guarantees their fine fragrance and crispness. French unsalted butter is added in for richness. The following day, the grissini are rolled and stretched into long, thin strips, and cut strictly by hand. They’re left to rest again all night, allowing the dough to dry out appropriately. After being lightly sprinkled with fine cornmeal, two days after the initial mixing, they’re slowly baked at low temperatures.

I’ve just been enjoying the Gentile grissini straight out of the box! It’s also classic to serve them with Prosciutto di Parma or other cured salumi. You can also, as I’ve done, crumble them onto salads or soups like croutons. The other day I found a reference to a centuries-old recipe for small savory pancakes that have broken pieces of grissini dropped into them! Whatever you do, eat and enjoy!