Ari’s Pick: Sicilian Sesame Semolina Bread

A longtime classic that’s as terrifically tasty as ever!

Sicilian Sesame Semolina is one of the original breads that we’ve been baking at the Bakehouse since the fall of 1992, and it is still as wonderful as ever. I agree with Bakehouse managing partner Amy Emberling who said, “I really enjoy that bread—to eat and just to look at. The color of the crumb is so beautiful!”

a loaf of sesame semolina bread

The Origins of this loaf

I’ve long felt that the Sesame Semolina was one of our best, if still little known, loaves. In Sicily though, this bread is anything but unknown. Semolina bread topped with sesame seeds is to the biggest island in the Mediterranean what baguettes are to Paris—a staple of everyday eating that most locals can’t imagine being without. There’s a saying on the island that, Senza pane, non mangiare! “Without bread, one cannot eat.” And bread there, much more often than not, means loaves of this golden, dense, deliciousness that we’ve come to call Sicilian Sesame Semolina.

The use of semolina for bread in Sicily goes back to ancient times. Hard winter wheat was more resistant to spoilage and gave the best grain for pasta making. While wealthy Sicilians ate bread made from softer wheat flours, the vast majority of the population, being poor, ate this bread—made with coarser, less costly, “lower class” semolina. As Mary Taylor Simetti says in Pomp and Sustenance, it’s the bread “that has kept the majority of Sicilians alive across the centuries.” The Bakehouse team says of the Semolina:

Meet the bread you didn’t even know you needed in your life. Its claim to flavor fame is something to see, and taste of course. The entire loaf is rolled in unhulled sesame seeds before baking. The natural oil in all those seeds that cover the dough gets slowly roasted in the oven, contributing an intense flavor and aroma, not to mention a lovely little crunch. And that’s just the crust! Inside there’s a firm, rich, and almost cake-like crumb made with golden semolina flour yielding a beautiful yellow interior.

How to enjoy it

slices of sesame semolina bread with butter on oneIf you buy a loaf, take time to appreciate the aroma—just hold the whole loaf up to your nose and you’ll immediately notice the buttery smells of the sesame seeds. Sliced, toasted, and dressed with olive oil and sea salt, the Sicilian Semolina bread is a great way to start any day. Add some orange marmalade—an incredible combination. Add some of that fresh Bellwether ricotta and you’ll be rocking. It’s great for grilled cheese, dunked in soup or on the side with a salad. Turn it into French toast or fry up as croutons! The Semolina bread is superb for all of them!

If you head over to the Coffee Company you can order it up on the terrific toast menu! The Bulgarian Toast is made with lutenitsa (“Bulgarian ratatouille”) and goat cream cheese on Sicilian Semolina bread. It’s a big-time favorite of many of my friends! As is this lovely traditional loaf!


  • Sign up for Ari’s Top 5 enewsletter to hear more from Ari every week!
  • Read about how Sara Hudson, Zingerman’s Creative Services Director, likes to eat Sesame Semolina.
  • Pick some up at the Bakeshop, Roadhouse, or Deli. Available Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
  • Call Zingerman’s Mail Order (888-636 8162) to have one shipped to someone you love.
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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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