Is this Italian? Bread Dipping Edition

Pasta, risotto, carbonara, polenta – here in the U.S. we love eating like Italians (pronounced eye-talians by some Midwesterners). While some of the “Italian food” we eat here is prepared traditionally, like most cuisine from outside the States, some practices and dishes are distinctly American.

Enter bread dipping – the practice of dipping freshly baked bread into delicious olive oil, seasoned with spices or drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar. This is a distinctly American tradition.  You won’t see Italians tearing off chunks of bread, dipping them into a communal dish of olive oil, and popping them in their mouths.  But it is delicious, and isn’t something we plan on giving up now that we know the truth. Instead, we’ve curated three wonderful spice blends specifically for bread dipping, each celebrating the flavors of different regions of Italy.

  • Milan Bread Dipper: Flavors of garlic, tomato, tarragon and basil blend together to celebrate the Lombardy region of Italy, home to Milan.
  • Sicilian Bread Dipper:  Garlic, tomato, smoked sweet paprika, chipotle, basil, bay leaves and other spices celebrate the diverse culinary influences of the island, just off the toe of the peninsula, in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Tuscan Bread Dipper: The taste of garlic, onion, rosemary, oregano and basil, finished with a bit of crushed red pepper for a bit of a kick remind us of traditional Tuscan cuisine.

For a tasty bread dipper, add 3 tablespoons of the spice blend to 1/2 cup of olive oil. We recommend starting with a single varietal (unflavored) olive oil, and experimenting from there. You can also adjust the seasoning-to-olive-oil ratio to your tastes. Combine the olive oil and spices around 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend together.

This trio is good for more than just bread dipping too! Add a dash or two to your red sauce. Make a zesty salad dressing or marinade for pork, chicken or fish by combining 3 tablespoons of the spice blend to 2/3 cup of olive oil, then add 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar. Marinade fish for 30 minutes and pork or chicken for 2-4 hours before cooking.