Chewy Italian Rolls

Think of these little chewy Italian rolls as the best kind of rustic Italian bread but in miniature form. Kind of like an easier ciabatta personalized into a roll just for you. My mind is spinning with the possibilities these rolls afford.

Can we just say: paninis galore, dipping into this shrimp scampi (we actually did that with these rolls and I about died and went to heaven), insane garlic or cheesy bread and about a million other options.

Chewy Italian Rolls

Making bread like this at home is incredibly rewarding. Whenever something like these amazing Italian rolls come out of my oven I feel like some kind of crazy awesome rock star killing it in the kitchen.

And because I know that it can be intimidating to make bread from scratch, like many of my other yeast bread recipes, I’ve included a step-by-step collage of pictures below the recipe to take a lot of the guesswork out of working with this yeast dough.

These rolls are simple and completely doable, I promise. The dough is uncomplicated and very forgiving. You’ll be dancing around your kitchen singing your own praises…for which I will never, never judge. Be proud, baby, be proud.

Chewy Italian Rolls

Keep in mind this dough starts with a biga (a strange word for a wet starter that needs to rest for 12-20 hours) so if you want hot, fresh Italian rolls, don’t start the recipe a couple hours before you need them or else you’ll end up with hockey puck rolls. In my Northern-Minnesota-basically-Southern-Canada-town, hockey puck anything is lauded and loved, but trust me, you don’t want these rolls to resemble hockey pucks. Soft and light and tender is the goal.

Plan ahead and you’ll be gifted with chewy, delicious Italian rolls. There will be no going back to normal life after you’ve experienced these heavenly little pillows.

Chewy Italian Rolls

One Year Ago:Β Cowboy Spaghetti
Two Years Ago:Β Orange Cashew Rice {With Baked Tilapia}
Three Years Ago:Β Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili

Chewy Italian Rolls

Yield: Makes 8 rolls

Chewy Italian Rolls

You really need instant yeast (not active dry) for this recipe since the yeast isn't proofing in any water before using it in the recipe. Also, you can use bleached all-purpose flour but since I only ever use unbleached and that's what King Arthur recommends, I put it that way in the recipe. Don't forget to plan ahead for this recipe since the biga needs to rest for 12-20 hours!


  • 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • Dough:
  • Biga (from above)
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast


  1. For the biga, mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 12-20 hours until it is puffed and very bubbly (as long as it is really bubbly, don't stress if it hasn't puffed much).
  2. For the dough, scrape the biga into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Add the flour, water, salt and instant yeast. Mix until combined. Continue mixing/kneading for 4-5 minutes, the dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky but shouldn't leave a lot of residue on your fingers if you grab a bit of it. If it seems overly sticky and isn't pulling away from the sides of the bowl, add a couple tablespoons extra flour at a time until the texture looks and feels right.
  3. Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly greased countertop and press it into a 6 X 12-inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter or bench scraper, cut the dough in half lengthwise (see pictures below). Then cut into 8 rectangular or square-ish rolls.
  5. Place the rolls onto a lined baking sheet, spacing 1-2 inches apart. Cover the rolls with greased plastic wrap and let them rise for 45 minutes or so until puffy.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Optional: put a baking stone in the oven while the oven preheats.
  7. Bake the rolls (placing the pan on the baking stone, if using) for 13-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.

Recipe Source: very lightly adapted (mostly just method) from King Arthur Flour

Chewy Italian Rolls

79 Responses to Chewy Italian Rolls {Step-by-Step}

  1. Valerie says:

    First of all, I absolutely love your blog. Almost everything I cook is from here. Thanks for perfecting so many amazing recipes! I Made these rolls today and they didn’t rise much at all. On the second rise they mostly spread instead of getting puffy after an hour of rising. They were only about 5/8″ thick when they were done. I made rolls with the same yeast a week ago with no problems, so I don’t think the yeast is old. I make bread about once a week and haven’t had this problem before. Any ideas on what could have gone wrong?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Valerie – any chance they were underfloured? Sometimes rolls will spread instead of rise if there isn’t enough flour in the dough.

      • Valerie says:

        That may have been the case. It was my first time measuring flour with my new kitchen scale. Maybe I relied on the weight a little too much. I’ll have to try it again with a little more flour. Thanks for your help! Oh and I just made your chicken and dumpling soup for a very sick husband. It was amazing! And I usually don’t like chicken noodle or dumpling soup. Thanks for another winner recipe!

  2. Junglewife says:

    Just found your website and can’t wait to make this recipe! I was so happy to see the Bosch mixer in your pictures! I big puffy heart LOVE my Bosch mixer! I have had it for about 15 years and it has traveled to Indonesia and back with me (I lived there for 7 years and I am not exaggerating when I say that I used my Bosch multiple times every single day)!

  3. Angie says:

    I made this bread twice over the weekend trying two different techniques. The first technique was as you described and the second one was placing the bread into mini loaf pans weighing 3 oz per slot. The mini loaf pan was a success, as was the technique you listed. We had hamburgers and decided to make sliders with the fresh bread, AWESOME!! Thank you for another successful recipe!

  4. Trisha says:

    Ok – so my husband requested these for Father’s Day after having had them last year on Father’s Day. He is a panini lover and this bread was fantastic for paninis! This year I used turkey, mozzarella, and tomato with some of your pesto inside the rolls, then brushed the outside of the roll with garlic olive oil. Sooo good! Thank you! I bet he will request paninis again next year. πŸ™‚

  5. Ed Terrell says:

    You say to lightly greased counter top, what do you use ?

  6. Mike says:

    They came out great, thanks for the recipe and the step by step instructions. I’m a visual person and really liked the pictures of each step. I’m sure I’ll be trying more of your recipes.

  7. Hi Mel! I always love your recipes and I love how you include the step by step picture collage. If you don’t mind my asking, what program do you use to create the collages? Thank you!

  8. Yoanda says:

    Hi Mel ! I love your recipes, they always turn out great. I was wondering if the water for the biga and the dough should be warm. I know most bread recipes need warm water, and the recipe does not specify.

  9. Jennifer S says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. My 13 year old daughter and I made these last night and today – and…well…. I am just speechless. They are WONDERFUL. I did use regular yeast – and I put cornmeal on the pan. We made turkey and monterey jack cheese sandwiches on them right after they came out of the oven and my husband could hardly stand it. WHY OH WHY have I been paying $6 a bag for these rolls at Costco?? I figure this cost me a whole $1 for 8 rolls. I will be making these on a regular basis now. And teaching my kids to make them too cause they are ridiculously easy to make.

    It is 9 pm now and my family is still talking about them. YUM.

  10. Jenni says:

    I made these last night and they were fantastic!! So happy I put in the (really not that much) work into them instead of buying rolls. Very simple recipe to follow. I had to add quite a few tablespoons of flour to it before it stopped sticking to my hands, but that could be the difference in flour here in Australia. Thank you so much, I can’t wait to try more recipes.

  11. Nadia says:

    If I need to double the amount, do I double the biga and yeast amounts as well?

  12. Staci says:

    My started has set a little longer than suggested. Closer to 24 hours. Is it still ok to use?

  13. Marci says:

    Do you think I could make 16 out of this batch?

  14. Bianca says:

    This looks awesome! There’s nothing like the aroma of baked bread wafting through the house. πŸ™‚ Can these be made in a bread machine for the kneading process? I only have a hand-held mixer available, though it is a nice daydream that I might get myself a stand mixer sometime in the future. Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Bianca – I don’t own a bread machine so I’m not sure, but it is certainly worth a try – just make sure the bread machine capacity can fit this amount of dough. Good luck!

  15. Heather says:

    Just an update! The biga had indeed bubbled, which was fun to see.

    I don’t have a stand mixer, so attempted these by hand. After I added the dough and everything else to the biga, it was a very dry dough. I kneaded by hand for quite a while, but it was never the moister dough I think it should have been. I forged ahead and made them anyway – they worked out ok, I think. I put the broiler on for the last few minutes so they would brown, which worked. Still in the early stages of attempting my own bread, so not sure what it is supposed to be like, but I will keep practicing. It is definitely tasty, though.

  16. I saw this recipe in the KAF catalog, and have been meaning to make it for awhile. Your photos and descriptions make it seem much easier to do! I will definitely be trying these soon, and I am going to need to try them with some of the ways you suggested πŸ™‚

  17. Heather says:

    I’m in the process of making them. When I first mixed the biga, I thought it was wrong because it look like quite a dry dough. How on earth was this supposed to bubble? But, I left it overnight and it definitely has expanded and when I left for work, it looked like it was starting to bubble. Looking forward to seeing what happens when I get home!

    I’ve had the same problem as other posters with buns not browning, even with a butter wash. So we’ll see what happens! I’ve read other recipes where you leave a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven, heat it up, and add water so it steams in there – that is what supposedly makes the crusty brown crust.

  18. Michelle says:

    I made these today, and had the same problem as Becky- the tops came out pasty white. They were cooked through and the bottoms were golden brown (after 15 minutes), but the tops wouldn’t brown! I know you said to try moving them to a different rack, but I’m wondering if an egg wash or butter would help. They really should brown in a 450ΒΊ oven! They were delicious though- I used them for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. πŸ™‚

  19. YD says:

    Mel, these rolls are so delicious! I made them yesterday and between my hubby, myself and my 3-yr-old boy, we ate almost all of them (only 2 rolls left)!
    I made one into a shamrock shape in honor or St Patrick’s day. That one was gone within minutes it came out of the oven. We ate the remaining for dinner.
    I will making these again. It is really easy to make with my son, just need to plan this ahead if I want to make them.

  20. Corinna says:

    Your rolls look great – I need to make these!
    Thanks for posting the recipe.

  21. Barbara says:

    Made these using active dry yeast because it was what I had on hand. They turned out great. I did let the yeast sit in the water for a few minutes at both steps while I measured out the rest of the ingredients. Very tasty.

  22. Sheila says:

    I made these today and we dipped pieces of these rolls in your new Beef and Barley Soup (best of the best!) recipe. They were crusty on the outside and tender and full of flavor on the inside. Your picture tutorials are so helpful and encouraging and answer so many questions that come up in your mind as you are making a new, somewhat intimidating recipe. I am so glad you strongly suggested weighing the flour. I did and my 10.5 ounces came out to be exactly 2 cups instead of the 2 1/2 cups! Closely viewing and reading the picture tutorial, I knew the 2 cups was the perfect amount to get the dough described in the tutorial. They came out perfect and so good. Thank you so much for being so careful to give to us clear, concise instructions so our recipes come out delicious — the way they are suppose to come out. I never had a scale until you taught me the value in having one. I was skeptical but am now a believer!

  23. Ouiz says:

    These rolls look AMAZING! I fell in love with your brownie recipe, so I had to see what else you had on your site… and I love my Bosch mixer, too! With 8 kids I have to make 5 loaves at a time, and my mixer handles it beautifully!

  24. Becky says:

    My oven rack is right around the middle. I’ll move it up a spot! Thanks, Mel…I never would have thought of that!

  25. Sara H. says:

    I saw this recipe in the King Arthur catalog and have been wanting to make it. Looks great!

  26. Angie says:

    I made the biga last night and now today it hasn’t done anything. It looks the same as when I mixed it in the bowl last night. I think I’m going to toss it because I don’t think it will do anything. Any idea what went wrong?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Angie, hmmm, it sounds like the yeast didn’t activate in the biga since it should be noticeably bubbly. Any chance your yeast is expired?

  27. Becky says:

    I made these last night, and they were delicious! Plus, I felt awesome using something called a “biga!”

    Anyway, mine didn’t get as brown on top as your’s did. I used the unbleached King Arthur’s flour and everything as listed in the recipe. Like I said, mine tasted awesome, but weren’t super appealing to look at πŸ™‚ If I brushed butter on top before baking, would that give them some color or is there a different trick I should try? Or would baking them a bit longer give them more color before over baking them?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Becky – where is your oven rack placed in your oven? Each oven is different but I notice that in this oven of mine (lived here about five months, different in past ovens I’ve used) that if I want really great browning on top of rolls/bread I need to place the rack in the upper third of my oven. Strangely, though, in my last house, it was the lower third of the oven that created the best browning. So you might want to play around with that a bit.

  28. Ashley says:

    These look amazing! Could they be mixed using the dough cycle of a bread machine?

  29. Tori says:

    Scary dough monster, I love it! Is that description only helpful for this recipe? Or is that what we’re looking for (I mean looking to avoid) in many different bread recipes? I’m always trying to figure out when to stop adding flour to breads and I’ve made mistakes both in adding too much and not adding enough. I love your site, thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Tori – THIS tutorial on yeast might help answer your questions. Also, some specialty doughs (like ciabatta) can be different but for basic breads and rolls, yes, avoiding scary monster fingers is the key without overflouring.

  30. Marissa says:

    We made these last night for dinner. The taste and texture were phenomenal! Thanks, Mel!

  31. Marcia S. says:

    These rolls are delicious, and perfect! I made them to go with your Italian beef in the crock pot. I will make these many times! Thanks for the recipe, and I agree Bosch is the best! My husband used to work for Bosch years ago, when they closed their houseware division in his location, they threw away mixers, coffee grinders, and meat slicers. Well, someone picked the garbage, and brought one of each of those things home for his wife! I always use my Bosch, it’s a workhorse! It doesn’t shake and shimmy across the counter like another brand I know.

  32. Andreya says:

    These were incredible! We had these to go with our lasagna tonight and I used your cheesy garlic bread method and they were irresistible!!! Thanks a million!!!

  33. Sam M says:

    Can’t wait to try these!

  34. Pamela says:

    I made my Biga last night and it got bubbly today but it’s not really any bigger. Is my Biga suppose to get Bigger? LOL It’s pretty cool in here, around 65 so I thought that might have kept it from developing properly. Wondering if I need to toss it out and start over.

  35. YD says:

    Oooo, I’ve got to try those! I can’t decide if I love eating bread more or baking bread more! I have recently started visiting your blog and I just found that you have lots of bread/rolls recipes. I am going to try the recipes once a month.

  36. Heather says:

    These look amazing. Probably a stupid Q, but I don’t have a stand mixer – can I knead by hand (recognizing that it will take a lot of work…)? I’ve never made bread before!

    • Mel says:

      Heather – I think almost any bread is doable by hand (except for may super specific artisan breads) so yes, I think you could probably manage this one by hand. Just take care not to overflour the dough. Good luck!

  37. Nicole says:

    Quick question: Does the temperature of the water (in either part of the recipe) matter? I’m assuming since we’re dealing with yeast at least room temperature. Any warmer? Or does it not matter at all for this one? I’m fairly new to your site but am quite impressed so far!

    • Mel says:

      Nicole – I would suggest room temperature water for both the biga and the dough. I hope you enjoy the rolls if you make them!

  38. Kim in MD says:

    Oh my gosh, Mel…these look awesome! You are the queen of homemade bread! I love the step by step tutorial, as I am a very visual person. I have been very picky about the bread I consume lately, as I seem to have developed an allergy to it-allergic in the sense that it makes me gain weight! πŸ˜‰ I will happily make these rolls and enjoy feeling like a kitchen rock star without an ounce of guilt!

  39. Stefanie says:

    Have you ever tried these with whole wheat flour or even half whole wheat flour and half white flour? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Stefanie – there is just a touch of whole wheat flour in the biga but I haven’t made them with any additional whole wheat. I definitely think it’s worth a try. Good luck if you try it!

  40. Julie Housley says:

    Is there any reason you couldn’t or shouldn’t make the biga in the Bosch? (Aside from not being able to use your mixer for 12-20 hours.)

    • Mel says:

      Julie – yep, you could definitely mix the biga in your mixer as long as you aren’t going to use the mixer during the resting period. πŸ™‚

  41. Oh these would be perfect for some paninis I’ve been planning to make for ages. Love the fool-proof instructions too!

  42. kandi v says:

    Oh Mel. If you keep teaching me how to make everything my grocery list, I will have nothing left to buy at the store.Making these tomorrow. Freezing suggestions?

    • Mel says:

      Kandi – I baked and cooled them, put them in freezer ziploc bags, swooshed out the air and they reheated beautifully out of the freezer.

  43. lidia says:

    Quick question. Do you also double the biga if you’re doubling the recipe???

  44. bluebaker says:

    On my next day off I am definitely making these . All you photos look so magaziney.

  45. Lisa Clark says:

    I LOVE it when you post new kinds of breads! They are my favorite thing to make. It is so cathartic to make something from nothing.

  46. Taylor Bowser says:

    Those look like my kind of rolls! Will definitely be making soon.

  47. Pamela says:

    Already made a batch of white rolls and chocolate chip cookies today and have a batch of your hamburger buns rising for dinner. Thought I was done for the day and then I saw these LOL
    I will add this to my baking list and get my starter going and we can have these tomorrow.

  48. Bethany says:

    Oh my goodness. I WILL make these and perfect them and then live on them. If you’ve tried costco’s torta rolls, are they similar? They look like they might be, and if that’s the case I will be one happy camper.

    Thoughts on using any (or all) bread flour in place of the AP?

    Also, this blog is heaven-sent. Really. Life-changing. I hope you know how appreciated your efforts are!

    • Mel says:

      Bethany – I think you could probably use bread flour. It has a higher protein content than all-purpose and I’m guessing the end result will be even chewier than the ones I made with all-purpose. Definitely worth a try (I might start with half to experiment). Report back if you try it (and thanks for your sweet comment!).

  49. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the quick response. I decided to just try to Italian Bread Bowl recipe, my husband LOVED it last time I made it & he suggested it for dinner. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  50. KatieP says:

    These look awesome…May I ask, what the HECK is that contraption you put the biga into?

    • Mel says:

      KatieP – that’s my almighty Bosch mixer! The only stand mixer worth owning, in my humble opinion. πŸ™‚ Ok, maybe not quite that dramatic, but it is stellar for making breads.

      • mark says:

        My 25 year old Kitchenaid mixer could argue that point as I’ve made bread and a lot of other things in it over the years. πŸ™‚ Just found your website and can’t wait to dig in and create some of these good looking dishes.

  51. Jenny says:

    Hi Mel!

    I was recommended your website by a friend and have loved EVERY recipe I’ve tried. We are having Philly Cheese Steaks tonight with some minute steaks from a friends Beef farm. I have a sourdough starter in the fridge, can I use that instead of the biga? I really want to make a delicious roll for tonight? Any other recipe recommendations? I was thinking about using the italian bread bowl recipe and just shaping the dough into loaves?

    Thanks again and LOVE your site!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Jenny – I’m not exactly sure how the sourdough starter would convert in this recipe but it’s worth a try. You would just need to make sure that the starter equals the amounts of the biga in the Italian rolls recipe – otherwise the dough could be way off in wetness/dryness. Good luck if you try it! I always use the French Bread Roll recipe for philly cheesesteaks and other sandwiches. It’s not necessarily crusty – pretty soft – but we love it for sandwiches and I shape it into longer buns without any problem.

  52. Meaghan says:

    These look delicious! How would you do it if you only had regular yeast on hand? Proof it?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Meaghan – I wouldn’t recommend using active dry yeast. I really think instant yeast is needed here. If you don’t plan on getting instant yeast, I suppose you could try proofing it first (in both the biga and the dough) and see how it goes. Just be sure to adjust the liquid amounts accordingly. Good luck!

  53. Megan says:

    These look awesome!

  54. Barbara H. says:

    Making these for dinner tonight…err tomorrow night.

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