Olive-Oil Rolls from Bologna

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Preparation info

  • Makes


    large individual rolls
    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Modern Baker

The Modern Baker

By Nick Malgieri

Published 2008

  • About

I first saw Margherita Simili, the great Italian baker, demonstrate how to make these rolls at the old Peter Kump’s Cooking School in the late 1980s. Margherita was in the United States to visit and teach at numerous cooking schools. Marcella Hazan, whom she helped back then with her classes in Bologna by doing all the pasta, pastry, and breads, accompanied her that day. These rolls are both beautiful and delicious, but require just a little bit of practice to get right. The shaping is not difficult, but you do need to be careful to keep the pieces of dough uniform in size and shape so that the finished rolls look attractive and appetizing.


  • 5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing the dough
  • teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • 2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil


  1. Use a large rubber spatula to stir together the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the oil, making sure it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  2. Whisk the yeast into the water and stir the mixture into the flour and oil mixture.
  3. Place the bowl on the mixer and mix with the paddle on the lowest speed for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Mix the dough again on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
  5. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and turn it over so that the top is oiled. Press plastic wrap against the surface and let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  6. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press it into a rough square. Use a knife or a bench scraper to cut the dough in half, then in half again to make 4 pieces. Cut each of the resulting pieces of dough into 3 pieces to make 12 pieces in all. Form each piece of dough into a rough sphere and cover them with a towel or plastic wrap and allow them to rest for 5 minutes.
  7. To roll the dough, take one of the pieces of dough and flour it lightly. Place the dough on a floured surface and roll it with a small rolling pin to make a thin rectangle of dough about 12 inches (30 cm) long and inches (9 cm) wide. If the dough resists, set it aside, covered, and roll another piece—after the first piece of dough has rested for a few minutes it will roll out more easily. Continue until all the pieces have been rolled out.
  8. To shape a roll, place a rectangle of dough in front of you horizontally on the work surface and cut the dough diagonally into 2 triangles (figure a). Join the triangles at the points and lightly brush them with olive oil (figure b). With your hands, begin rolling up the dough from the far ends toward the center (figure c). Repeat with the remaining rectangles.
  9. Turn the right hand roll at a right angle to the left one, positioning their two middles together to form a cross. Place the shaped roll on the pan. Repeat with the remaining rectangles of dough, positioning the rolls equidistant from one another on the pans.
  10. Cover the pans with a towel or oiled plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise until they are not quite doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
  11. About 15 minutes before the rolls are fully risen, set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
  12. Bake the rolls until they are well risen, about 15 minutes. Move the bottom pan to the top rack and switch the pans from back to front while you are moving them. Continue baking until the rolls are a deep golden color, about 10 minutes longer. Slide the rolls on the parchment paper onto a rack to cool.


These are the ultimate fancy dinner rolls.


Keep the rolls loosely covered on the day they are baked. Bag and freeze for longer storage. For advance preparation, freeze the rolls, then defrost, reheat at 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes, and cool them before serving.