Fette biscottate – they’re Italy’s classic toast, or toast-cookies, or toast-cookie-crackers, depending on who you ask. Tough to describe, loved or hated, and everywhere you look.
If you’re coming to Italy, you’re bound to run into fette biscottate at your hotel’s breakfast buffet or you may find your father-in-law slathering some in Nutella at midnight in the kitchen.
Try them and form your own opinion about these controversial crunchy ‘treats.’
Fette Biscottate – What Exactly Are They?
They are rusks that are made with a slightly sweet bread dough and baked in the oven. They are rather dry but work well with Nutella and other sweet spreads (and even salty ones!). You might hear them described as a kind of crunchy ‘toast-cookies.’
You can find them all over Europe under different names – ‘zwieback’ being the most common. True fette biscottate are cooked twice – first like a loaf of bread, and then sliced and baked again. It’s even in the name – fette (slices) bis (two) cotto (cooked).
You’ll usually find classic white bread (dorate) or wheat bread (integrale), but you’ll also see other types of flours used. Kamut fette biscottate are commonly found at organic, healthy grocery stores like Naturasi and online health food stores. Other flours include farro, buckwheat, quinoa, and rice flour.
Schar even makes a gluten-free version of them.
Vegans, those with lactose intolerance, and others with dietary restrictions can find an appropriate version of fette biscottate.
Fette Biscottate – What They Are Not
They aren’t stale slices of toast, even though they look like they are. Say that to an Italian and you’ll probably get some side eye.
What Do They Taste Like?
I asked my Italian husband what they taste like. His response: “On their own, tasteless biscuits. But with Nutella they are just delicious. I could eat them all day – at breakfast, in the afternoon, before bed with a glass of milk.”
I’ve heard tourists and expats describe the taste as: cardboard, dust, crumbly rice cake, stale toast.
In defense of the little fette biscottate – they taste much better when there’s something on them. Many of the above-mentioned tourists and expats tried snacking on them plain, which isn’t the best way to eat them.
What Are The Ingredients in Fette Biscottate?
They may contain:
Fette Biscottate – What Do You Eat With Them?
You can get creative with them. Some classics and toppings I’ve seen here include:
- ricotta and figs
- butter and flaky sea salt
- cream cheese (called Philadelphia here)
- jams or jellies
- peanut butter, almond butter, etc
- peanut butter and jelly (admittedly, I’ve only seen American expats doing this)
They are often eaten as a part of a simple breakfast – fette biscottate with a spread and coffee or tea. This wouldn’t be enough for me, but many Italians have a very light breakfast, followed by a substantial lunch and a lighter dinner. They are quick and easy – which is what many Italians want for breakfast. Italians choose to focus their culinary efforts on pranzo (lunch) and cena (dinner).
Who Eats Them?
Hotel Guests – As I mentioned above, if you’re staying in an Italian five-star hotel, bed & breakfast, rifugio, hostel, villa, you name it – you’ll see fette biscottate at breakfast. They look out of place at a fancy hotel’s breakfast buffet, but there are Italians who will skip over delectable made-to-order omelets, fresh local cheeses, and homemade pastries for a chance to slather some fette biscottate in Nutella and call it a breakfast. My husband is one of them.
Families – Families often have them for breakfast. My kids will eat them instead of cereal but they actually prefer to toast bread instead (maybe because they’re half American?).
Children – Some kids nibble on them as a snack. You may see a toddler in a stroller eating one or children at snack time dipping them into a glass of warm milk.
Babies – Some Italian parents let their teething babies gnaw on fette biscottate. It’s less and less common as there are special teething biscuits available here. If you’re coming to Italy with a baby, give them a try!
Pregnant Women – When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, my dietician-designed diet included fette biscottate with cheese for breakfast.
People Who Aren’t Feeling Well – Much like I grew up munching on Saltines when I had tummy troubles, you’ll find under-the-weather Italians nibbling on fette biscottate.
Where to Buy Them
You can purchase them anywhere – from large grocery stores like the Coop, Carrefour, and Esselunga to little corner markets in the middle of nowhere. You can even find them at some pharmacies. Order them online from Amazon Italy or specialty food shops.
If you aren’t in Italy, you can order them from Amazon, but you’ll pay a premium.
Which Brands Are The Best?
Mulino Bianco is by far the most popular and well-known brand of fette biscottate.
Gentilini, Colusi, and Monviso fette biscottate have loyal followings.
Many grocery stores carry their own versions. For example, Coop has its own branded packages of fette biscottate integrali and dorate, and Esselunga has its Equilibrio brand of fette biscottate integrali and dorate.
What Are They Called In Other Languages?
- English – rusks (They are not ‘toast’ – that translates to ‘pane tostato’ in Italian.)
- French – biscotte
- German – zwieback
- Croatian – dvopek
Recipes For Fette Biscottate
There are many recipes online. If you can read Italian, I recommend Giallo Zafferano’s recipe. Otherwise, check out the recipe from AllRecipes UK.
Happy baking, happy baking! That’s not a typo – you’re baking twice – see what I did there?