Poppy Seed Potato Bignès on Braised Leeks and Taleggio

Going through my old recipe book, I stumbled upon this delicious dish – true comfort food, Italian style! An amazing entree where soft and creamy potato bignès, covered in nutty poppy seeds and deep fried are laid to rest on a bed of braised leeks and Taleggio! The dish is absolutely simple to make and a guaranteed success. The only challenge lies in finishing the two components more or less at the same time.

This recipe has been adapted from La Cucina Italiana (November 1997, page 58).

Poppy Seed Potato Bignès

Yield: 2-3 servings

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Poppy Seed Potato Bignès


     For the sauce

    • 1 Tbsp butter
    • 1 big leek (or 2 smaller ones)
    • 1 cup (250 ml) milk (for the sauce)
    • 1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream (for the sauce)
    • 10 oz (300 g) Taleggio cheese (for the sauce)
    • salt to taste (for the sauce)

     For the bignè

    • 1 small Russet potato (250 g)
    • 1/2 cup (50 g) flour
    • 1/4 cup (50 g) butter
    • 1/4 cup (50 g) water
    • 1/8 of a teaspoon salt
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup poppy seeds
    • 2 cups (0.5 l) olive oil for deep-frying


    1. Boil the potato. Let it cool until lukewarm.
    2. Meanwhile, start preparing the sauce.
    3. Slice the leek in thin rings (fig. a) and sauté them in butter for 10 minutes (fig. b).
    4. Add the milk and cream (fig. c), and stew slowly for 30-45 minutes until thick (at that point take off the heat but keep warm).
    5. While the sauce cooks, start preparing the bignè.
    6. Put the water and butter into a small pan (fig. 1) and bring to a boil (fig. 2).
    7. Add the flour and stir constantly (fig. 3).
    8. Keep the mix on the heat until sizzling, and the mix detaches itself from the pot (fig. 4).
    9. Move the mix into a bowl, let cool.
    10. Add the egg and salt (fig. 5). Mix (fig. 6).
    11. Mash the potato with the ricer and add it to the mix (fig. 7).
    12. Mix everything until smooth, then stir in 1 Tbsp of poppy seeds (fig. 8).
    13. With your hands, make walnut-sized balls, roll them over poppy seeds until completely covered (fig. 9). You should be able to make 8-10 of them (fig. 10).
    14. Deep fry the bignès in olive oil (fig. 11) keeping the temperature at constant 180 degrees Celsius.
    15. When golden-brown, remove balls and put them to dry onto paper-towel (fig. 12).
    16. Finish preparing the sauce by adding the diced Taleggio to it (fig. d). Stir until the cheese melts completely. Adjust the salt.
    17. Serve the bignè while still hot on a bed of sauce.

    13 thoughts on “Poppy Seed Potato Bignès on Braised Leeks and Taleggio”

    1. OH MY GOODNESS! These look amazing! I had never seen them before… I guess they are from the North of Italy (just saying… poppy seeds…)? I am bookmarking this recipe as I'd love to try it out… besides, the sauce is made with Taleggio, and I cannot resist Taleggio! 😉

      1. Lol 🙂 I guarantee that everyone will eat the first bite and go: "Mmmmmh". Yeah, definitely a recipe from northern Italy. Not only do the poppy seeds hold the potato ball together, but give a delicious nuttiness and crunch, and also make for a very dry "fried" – not oily at all! 🙂

    2. I'm from the northern Italy but I've never heard or seen something like that too!!!
      They look delicious!!! How do you serve them? As an appetizer, as a side dish, as a fingerfood?
      Well you made ne curious! I have to try them one day!
      What's the italian name for these bignes?

      1. Yes, certainly not a traditional dish (that I know of), but certainly a dish containing traditional flavors. I would serve it as a vegetarian second course, or a "main". But a smaller portion could very well be served as an appetizer. Not fingerfood, because of the sauce – you want to use knife and fork and savor a bite of potato ball together with some of the sauce. The original name of the recipe as published by La Cucina Italiana was: BIGNE' DI PATATE AL PAPAVERO. Let me know when you'll make them!

    3. These are new to me, and they looks fantastic. I really like the subtle taste of poppy seeds. I associate them with Central European cooking, funny to see them pop up (no pun intended) in an Italian dish. Are they from Trieste, perhaps? Or Alto Adige?

      1. Interesting about the possible Central European origins… It's a good theory also because poppy seeds are not very common in Italy (where they are really expensive). It is also possible that this dish was created entirely by La Cucina Italiana.

    4. I can vouch for these. Paolo cooked them for us during a visit, and they were great! Can't wait to make them at home. Thanks for posting the recipe, Paolo.

    5. I had never heard of these either, despite living in the north and loving anything with taleggio and poppy seeds in it. Thank you for teaching me! P.S. have been catching up on podcasts, keep 'em coming!

      1. Thanks Fiona! I guess for once I posted a non-traditional recipe. But with traditional flavors 🙂 I'm very happy you like the podcast!

      1. Hi Ilaria, this recipe yields around 8 potato balls. As an appetizer I would probably serve only 1 potato ball per person, these quantities should be enough for 6-8 people.

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