15 June 2014

Rosemary & Olive Oil Farinata

Here we are people.  The moment of truth (or post, if you will).  Italian time!  I've been itching to recreate some dishes from our international adventure at home, and here we begin with one of my very favorites.  Move over crackers....meat and cheese have a new favorite partner in this household!

So let's chat a bit about farinata.  If you're looking at that word thinking, "Um, fari-what?"...know you are not alone.  When the waitress in Florence placed a basket of this sliced unknown food between us at the dinner table, we asked her to repeat the name three times.  Open to all things Italy, we each selected a wedge and took a gracious nibble.  Then we proceeded to stuff down two full baskets before dinner even hit the table.  Yup, it was that good.

This traditional Italian dish may best be described as a thick and savory pancake.  The salty and lightly herbaceous flavor were great, but the texture was really what made us ask for that second basket.  While the bottom of the bread was crispy and firm, the top was chewy and moist.  A delicious dichotomy that had the hubs and I completely befuddled.  Obviously it was baked at a super high temperature, but what it contained was a mystery.  I was thinking cornmeal, but not quite.  It wasn't until we explained this dish to our friends in Parma that we found out what farinata truly is.

Known in other regions as cecina or socca, this dish is made from chickpea flour and water.  It contains no leavening and therefore remains flat when baked.  Chickpeas, or "ceci" in Italian, make an incredibly creamy and rich flour that is both gluten free and high in protein.  Also known as gram or garbanzo bean flour, it is a common flour in both Indian and French cuisine.

The trick to this bread is the heat of the oven.  Just as the best thin crust pizzas are cooked at a high temperature in a pre-heated oven, farinata requires a pre-heated dish for baking.  By placing a cast iron skillet in the oven while it heats, you create a gloriously hot baking surface (like the brick in a pizza oven).  When the batter is poured into the hot pan, the bottom and edges cook almost immediately for a wonderful crispy base.  Meanwhile, the batter inside bakes at a slower rate, creating a tender and chewy top that just begs to be eaten.

Never one to put a good rooftop garden to waste, I have amped up the rosemary in my take on the traditional recipe to make the fresh herbs really sing alongside the salt and pepper.  Here we're taking the ultimate trashy international approach by serving an Italian classic along side barbecue ribs, but you can also serve this as an incredibly classy appetizer with slices of fresh parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto and olives.

Ahhh....tastes just like Italy!

Rosemary & Olive Oil Farinata (serves 3-4)
  • 2 c warm water
  • 1 1/2 c garbanzo bean flour (a.k.a. gram or chickpea flour)
  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs rosemary, chopped
  • 5 tbs good quality olive oil, divided
  • fresh ground pepper, to garnish
Place the water in a medium mixing bowl.  Slowly add the garbanzo bean flour, whisking as your pour.  Continue to whisk until the mixture is well blended and foamy on top.  Set aside and let rest at room temp for 2 hours.

Place a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Once the oven reaches the correct temperature, let the pan sit for an additional 5 minutes to ensure it is well heated.

Use a spoon to skim all remaining foam off the top of the batter and discard.  Add the salt, rosemary and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to the batter and whisk until well combined.  Remove the pan to the stove top.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and immediately pour the batter into the hot pan.  Place back in the heated oven and bake until the crisped edges are pulling away from the pan and the top is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. 

Transfer the farinata from the pan to a wooden cutting board and garnish with the cracked pepper.  Let cool for about 10 minutes, then slice into wedges or strips.  Serve with fresh cheese, salami and prosciutto.  


  1. This sounds so delicious. I've never heard of it and don't remember seeing it in Italy but I've got to try it.

    1. Thanks Christie! We only came across it in Florence, but friends in Parma knew what we were talking about. Theirs was a bit thinner than ours, but otherwise the taste is spot on!