A quick guide to Italian flour

 

Italian flour

0, 00, 1, or 2? Italian flour can be confusing. Put it all straight with this quick guide.

Once, I thought I knew flour: plain, self-raising, strong, wholemeal—each with their own uses, each with their own consistencies. And then I moved abroad. It was while shopping in Switzerland that I first noticed alarming range of flours with unrecognizable names. I thought it would be a matter of just looking in a dictionary, but no. It wasn’t the names of the flours that were different; it was the flours themselves.

After two years in Switzerland, and having become an expert in making my own self-raising flour, I moved to France where, once again the flour was different. Here at least there was a system. Flours are given a type number based on the weight of the ashes which remain after 100g of flour is burned. The higher the number, the more glutens there are and the stronger the flour is. So there is T45, T55, T65, T80, T110, and T150. The lower numbers are used for patisserie, the higher ones for bread. The baguette de la tradition française uses T65.

When I moved back to Italy, I quickly discovered that there was a system, like in France. At first it seemed quite simple and only a matter of translating numbers. T45 = 00, T55 = 0, T80 = 1, T110 = 2, T150 = farina integrale. This was born out by experience of using these flours in French style patisserie where they produced the same results. These flours are all labelled farina di grano tenero (soft grain flour) but then I began to notice some others labelled farina di grano duro (hard grain flour). What could these be?

In effect there are two basic types of wheat grown and used in Italy: grano tenero (triticum aestivum) and grano duro (triticum durum). In English the latter is often called durum wheat. In theory, durum flour isn’t even called flour, it’s called semola, which is much more grainy than flour: think polenta. There are different grades of graininess (semola, semolato, semola integrale, and semolina). In English, it’s all called semolina.

So what do all these flours get used for in Italian cuisine? A lot of them are used for different types of breads. Remember that Italian cuisine is very regional and the types of bread found throughout the peninsula are very varied. But the basic list is as follows.

00 – patisserie without yeast and fresh pasta, pastry cremes, and sauces

0 – patisserie with yeast and flatbreads

1 – bread

2 – bread

integrale – whole wheat bread

Semolina is often used mixed in with the above flours, or as in my bringoli recipe, to stop fresh pasta sticking to each other when drying out. It’s also used in the production of dried pasta. So what’s the difference between fresh pasta and dried pasta? Well that’s a whole other blog post.

 

 

15 thoughts on “A quick guide to Italian flour”

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  4. Do you know what Italian flour I should use to make traditional American cookies or British biscuits? I’d like to make sugar or butter cookies for Christmas. I used 00 for chocolate chip cookies and they turned out flat and dry.

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    1. You can use 00 for Neapolitan pizza (the rules allow 0 or 00) but it’s not really suitable for raised breads. Flatbreads work well.

  6. As an American, we seemed to have gotten spoiled by the simplicity of “All-Purpose Flour,” assuming someone doesn’t have a gluten allergy. It can make quite decent pizza dough, bread, pasta, cake and pastries. It usually has about 11-12% gluten that is more than suffice to cover the heartier baking, like breads but also be toned down with added ingredients to make a nice pastry. Yes, we are learning to use Pastry Flour, Whole Wheat, Bread Flour, Cake Flour, etc. as we become more culinarily educated thanks to a new generation of cooks and social media. However, in translating a recipe to an Italian friend from an American recipe that uses AP flour, do I simply state 00, 2, etc based on what the recipe is? (i.e. – If it’s a simple bread, do I simply state to use flour 1?) It seems like there would be more to it, like having to maybe mix flours. Does Italy have gluten measurements in their flour, or even just an equivalent to American AP?

    1. What about muffins? I got a recipe from Canada, and they talk about “all purpose flour”.
      I found a translation which said that AP flour is what we (Italians) call “farina 0”, but as I usually use this kind of flour for pizza or bread, I’m not sure that the translation is right. I usually use “farina 00” for cakes and pastries in general. Do you think that AP flour = farina 00 if we talk about pastry?
      Thank you 🙂

      1. Luca Marchiori

        As far as I know, AP (all purpose) flour can be use to replace 0 or 00 flour in Italian recipes. 0 flour is best for replacing it in cake recipes, so I’d say you should use 0 flour for muffins 🙂

    2. Luca Marchiori

      I’d say that sounds like a good plan. Basically, 0 for cakes and pastries, 00 for pasta etc. That way the recipes should work without problems. I often make British or US cakes which call for plain or AP flour and usually substitute them with 0 flour which works out great.

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  8. When we lived in Sardinia, we fell in love with the bread, among other things. Lately, we’ve been trying to make focaccia at home. So far, it’s good, as homemade breads almost always are, but not as good. What type of flour would typically be used? I’m thinking tipo 1, but if I knew what I was talking about, I wouldn’t be asking!

    1. Hi Isaac, yes what you need for well risen breads is a strong flour. 1 would be good. That said, I use 0 for foccaccia with great results. 2 is almost wholegrain so would affect the colour and taste. Go for 0 or 1 and let me know how you get on.

  9. Hi Luca, thanks for this great post! I’ve been living in Italy for 2.5 years and still get confused with all the different types of flour! I have to say I do stick to 00 but I’m trying others now too. What do I use Manitoba for? And does ‘a pietra’ flour make any difference and should I use it? Most important if making cookies, which flour should I be using?? Thank you!

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