Chef Idriss Laghlimi making grissini, as featured in our new book Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

Mamma knows best: How to make perfect grissini breadsticks

Big Mamma chef Idriss Laghlimi shares his tips on how to make those crispy, Italian appetizers in our new book

Founded by two Italian-food loving Frenchmen, the Big Mamma restaurant group has managed to conjure up the warmth and generosity of a traditional trattoria in a wide variety of European cities. The secret ingredient? Its team! Big Mamma employs young, talented and enthusiastic Italian chefs, often straight out of catering school. 

The restaurants’ brigades – whose average age is 24 – brings the Mediterranean charm to chillier cities, such as Paris and London, recreating dishes that are rarely made so well outside of their home country. Consider this guide to making grissini, the traditional, crispy breadsticks you often find on the table of a welcoming trattoria.

Ever wondered how they were made? Well, ponder it no more. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Big Mamma chef Idriss Laghlimi, which appears in our new book Big Mamma Cucina Poplare.


Big Mamma Cucina Popolare
Big Mamma Cucina Popolare

You’ll need 120 g/4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened; 20 g/¾ oz fresh yeast or 2½ teaspoons fast-action dried (active dry) yeast; 1 kg/2¼ lb (8 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour; 120 g/4 oz (½ cup) olive oil; a  tablespoon of salt and some cornflour (cornstarch).

In a bowl, soften the butter with a spatula. Dissolve the yeast in 500ml/17 fl oz (generous 2 cups) of water and add the flour, oil, salt and softened butter. Mix with a spatula to form a slightly sticky dough. Put the dough onto a baking sheet, dust with cornflour (cornstarch) and leave to rise for two hours.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7. Take pieces of dough the size of a golf ball and roll them around your finger to form a spiral. The strips must be of uniform size for even baking. You can also twist them, just as Idriss does in the picture. Arrange on a baking sheet and scatter with salt and herbs, or leave them plain. Bake for five minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 175°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 12 minutes. To dry them out well, finish baking at 80°C/175°F/lowest gas mark setting for one hour 30 minutes.

For plenty more dishes to follow on from these, as well as tips that only Mamma knows, order a copy of Big Mamma Cucina Popolare here.