Only four ingredients are needed to make the humble and tasty dish farinata. Originally from Liguria, farinata is now one of Italy’s most well-loved street foods!
This savory, pancake-like dish is often used as an alternative to bread.
There are two main legends that tell of the creation of farinata. The first legend is that it was created by Roman troops. In Roman times, flour was a luxury that most troops could not afford. Chickpeas were a much more affordable option, and so soldiers would prepare a mixture of chickpea flour and water for their bread. They would then place the mixture in their metal shields and let the mixture cook in the hot Italian sun.
The second legend holds that farinata was born in 1284 during the battle of Meloria between Genoa and Pisa. When Genoa’s navy finally defeated the Pisans, they took many of their soldiers captive. The Pisans were thrown into the holds of the navy ships to be brought back to Genoa.
The Genoan navy ships used both sails and oarsmen to speed across the water. With its high protein content and long shelf life, their oarsmen were often fed soup made with chickpeas.
While sailing through the Bay of Biscay on their way home from battle, the Genoan’s ships were struck by a fierce storm. Their ships’ holds were flooded, and their barrels of dried chickpeas and olive oil broke open. Chickpeas and olive oil spilled across the flooded hold, mixing with the seawater pouring in from above.
Once the storm had cleared, and with supplies now running dangerously low, the Genoans decided to feed the chickpea-olive oil-seawater mush to their captives.
Some of the captives forced the mush down, while others refused to stoop so low, leaving their bowls untouched in the sun.
By the next day, however, the Pisans could no longer keep their hunger at bay. They returned to their leftover bowls of mush and found that the sun had baked the mixture into a sort of pancake or focaccia - much more palatable!
Once back on land, the Genoese decided to perfect this new culinary discovery. And, to taunt the Pisans, they took to calling it the Gold of Pisa. Later on, it became known throughout Italy as farinata.
Whichever way farinata first came to be, Italians can all agree that the sight of farinata fa venire l’acquolina in bocca! (makes your mouth water!)
– Julia & Camillo
1 Cup of Chickpea Flour
1 Cup of Water, Room Temperature
Riserva Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & pepper
1. Place the chickpea flour in a bowl and gradually begin adding the water, whisking as you go.
2. Continue to whisk the mixture as you slowly add the rest of the water. Once all of the ingredients are combined, you should have a very liquid mix without any lumps.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest at room temperature for a minimum of 2 hours (or up to overnight).
4. Once two hours have passed, preheat the oven to 482°F.
5. Remove the foam that will have formed on the top of the batter with a slotted spoon.
6. Add ½ a teaspoon of salt and 3 ¼ teaspoons of Riserva extra virgin olive oil.
7. Whisk well to combine, and remove the sediment which will have formed on the bottom of the bowl.
8. Pour a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a round baking tray with an 11-inch circumference. Spread the olive oil around the whole baking dish, coating it well. Please note: The baking dishes’ size is vital in the success of the dish! If you don’t have a dish of this exact size, use two smaller ones and divide the batter.
9. Pour the chickpea batter onto the dish, making sure it is less than half an inch thick.
10. To bake the farinata, place it first on the bottom rack of the oven for 10 minutes, to recreate the effect of a wood-fire oven. Once 10 minutes have passed, place the dish on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for another 10 to 20 minutes. The farinata should be crisp, golden, and relatively soft in the middle.
11. As it cools down, top with a generous sprinkle of black pepper and some salt flakes. Serve warm by itself or with basil pesto or any cured meats or cheeses you fancy!