Italy’s Best-Kept Secret: Farinata di Ceci
Embark on a mouth-watering adventure across the picturesque landscapes of Liguria with my authentic Farinata di Ceci recipe. This golden, crispy delight, brimming with history and bursting with flavour, is a true embodiment of Italian culinary magic. Join me as we uncover the secrets to crafting this irresistible masterpiece, a dish meant for sharing and savouring with your loved ones.
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
About 15 years ago, I stumbled upon the magic of farinata di ceci, all thanks to a chat with my childhood buddy Maurizio. He’s soaking up the sun in Santa Margherita Ligure these days and whips up farinata like it’s an art form. So, I prodded him for the recipe, and he spilled all the secrets for crafting the perfect farinata. Maurizio, though, insisted on a copper pan, swearing it’s the only way to hit perfection. Living in London, I shrugged it off initially, using instead my faithful Le Creuset cast iron pan. It worked a treat, and despite Maurizio’s coaxing, I stuck to my guns.
Fast forward a few months ago, and I finally snagged a farinata copper pan off Amazon. Maurizio was onto something! The result? A game-changer. I had to eat my words and dial him up to confess. Now, farinata is a regular on my menu – not just because it’s a tasty veggie fix but also because my kids devour it. Talk about a win-win!
Chickpea farinata (called socca in the area) served on the streets of Nice (France).
Let’s dive into the magical origins of farinata – where history meets legend. The greek hero Ulisse, in the legendary siege of Troy, ingeniously cooked a batter made with oil and chickpea flour in warriors’ shields when food ran scarce. Others recount that even the ancient Romans, during their occupation of Genoa, would cook water and chickpea flour, less expensive than wheat, on their shields in the sun.
Now, the “testo,” that hero copper pan for farinata, traces its name back to Saracen shields. A bit of highbrow Arabic: “testooh” means shield. This shiny copper sidekick is not only essential to make farinata but also the deliciously cheesy Recco focaccia and savoury pies. It ranges from a humble 30 to a whopping 150 cm in diameter.
Continuing with legends about Genoese farinata, we arrive in 1284 – during the Battle of Meloria chaos. Barrels broke, oil mixed with chickpea flour and seawater, cooked in the sun, and bam, farinata for the victorious crew.
The “official” farinata recipe, dating back to 1477, comes to life in historical records. A Decree Law in Genoa, regulating the preparation of scripilita, the ancient term for farinata, laid down strict rules. It explicitly prohibited the use of subpar oil, emphasizing that superior quality oil is the key to achieving an excellent result. It’s golden farinata or bust.
Farinata, the street food rockstar, shines worldwide. Socca in the French Riviera, calentita in Gibraltar, caliente or calentita in Morocco, fainá in Argentina – it’s an international affair.
In Italy, names abound – fainà de ceixei or fainà in Genoese, cecina, torta di ceci, or calda calda in Tuscany, bela cauda in lower Piedmont, fainè in Sardinia, and fainò in Carloforte.
Now, the party – Pegli’s Farinata Festival. Twice a year, the “farinotti” host a bash, blending Pegli Mill’s chickpea flour and Riviera di Ponente’s finest olive oil. It’s history in every bite. Cheers to farinata!
Farinata di ceci is a nutritional powerhouse. Chickpea flour delivers plant-based protein and sustained energy, complemented by heart-healthy monounsaturated fats from extra-virgin olive oil. Keep salt in check, personalizing the dish with herbs, veggies, or extra protein for a well-balanced, tailored meal. Adjust portions based on health goals and preferences.
- Proteins 21% 21%
- Carbs 56% 56%
- Fats 33% 33%
How to make the authentic chickpea farinata
Selecting the perfect chickpea flour for your farinata is like finding the magic wand for your culinary masterpiece. Let’s dive into the secrets of choosing the ultimate flour to make your farinata shine.
Start with the label – it’s the opening chapter of the flour story. Look for the one that proudly states “100% chickpea” or “100% besan.” That’s your cue for the real deal, the flour that transforms farinata into something extraordinary.
Texture is your silent hero. Aim for a chickpea flour that feels as smooth as silk. Fine flour is your key to creating a farinata with a velvety batter and a divine texture.
Freshness is non-negotiable. Glance at the expiration date – you want your chickpea flour to be at its prime. Look for a flour that has around 1 year shelf life. Fresh flour ensures a farinata with a delightful, nutty flavour and superior results.
Colour and aroma are your guiding lights. The best chickpea flour boasts a light yellow hue and an irresistible nutty scent. If it looks dull or smells off, it might not be the star ingredient your farinata deserves.
Consider the packaging – it’s like the protective shield for your flour. Choose a package that seals in the freshness and keeps out pests.
Trust in brand reputation. Look for names that chefs recommend or those with stellar reviews. A good reputation is a sign that you’re getting a top-tier flour for your farinata. My go to brand is
For gluten-free farinata, check for the certification. Ensure your chickpea flour bears the gluten-free label for a worry-free and delicious focaccia.
Experiment with variety. Don’t shy away from trying different chickpea flours. Each variety brings its own unique touch to your farinata, adding layers of flavour and texture.
Once you’ve found your farinata flour, treat it like royalty. Store it in a cool, dark spot – maybe in a fancy airtight container. This ensures it stays fresh, ready to turn every farinata into a culinary masterpiece.
Farinata copper pan
Cooking chickpea farinata in a copper pan is the secret move that transforms the dish into a culinary masterpiece. The copper pan, with its amazing ability to distribute heat evenly, ensures that your farinata cooks to perfection. No uneven spots, just a glorious, uniform golden hue.
What makes the copper pan truly special is its responsiveness to temperature changes. It’s like having a cooking partner that moves as swiftly as you do. This control is key when you’re after that ideal texture and colour for your farinata.
There’s a bit of tradition here too. Using a copper pan for farinata is not just about function; it’s about connecting with the roots of this dish. In Liguria, it’s the classic choice that adds a touch of authenticity to your culinary journey.
Sure, you can use other pans, and each might bring its own charm. But when it comes to crafting the perfect chickpea farinata, you must use a copper one. The Italian cookware maker Agnelli makes an excellent farinata copper pan. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but totally worth it.
Extra-virgin olive oil
When making your farinata, the choice of using top-notch extra virgin olive oil is like adding the final brushstroke to a masterpiece. Here’s why this liquid gold is your kitchen’s secret weapon, far superior to other vegetable oils.
Firstly, let’s talk flavour. Extra virgin olive oil brings this rich, almost luxurious taste to your farinata. Its fruity and robust notes dance alongside the nutty charm of chickpea flour, creating a melody of taste that’s truly unmatched.
And it’s not just about taste; it’s about goodness too. This olive oil is packed with antioxidants and those good-for-you monounsaturated fats, turning your farinata into a nutritious powerhouse.
Now, picture tradition on your plate. Farinata has its roots deeply embedded in the Mediterranean, where extra virgin olive oil reigns supreme. Using it doesn’t just cook your farinata; it transports you to the sun-kissed landscapes where this dish was born.
Close your eyes and take a whiff. The aromatic dance of the olive oil and chickpea flour creates an enchanting fragrance, setting the stage for a truly sensory experience.
Texture is key, and that’s where extra virgin olive oil plays its magic. It adds a touch of moisture and richness, making the inside of your farinata tender and the outside gloriously crispy and golden.
Now, imagine veering off this path of culinary brilliance. Other vegetable oils might not quite capture the intended magic. They might bring a neutral vibe to the party, but farinata deserves more than just neutrality.
So, when it comes to your farinata, don’t just settle for any oil – go for the gold. The rich, vibrant, and authentic experience of farinata is best served with a splash of the finest extra virgin olive oil.
Optional Ingredients & Variations
Chickpea farinata is a delight on its own, or with a touch of freshly ground black pepper. Yet, why not elevate it and make it uniquely yours with a personalized twist?
How about throwing in some marjoram leaves and rosemary needles? It’s like a fragrant explosion, taking your farinata to a whole new level. Or, let’s talk veggies. Finely chop up some of your favourite seasonal goodies (or even sundried tomatoes), toss them in the mix, and then bake!
Now, if you’re feeling adventurous, here’s my favourite – turmeric and spinach. Mix two teaspoons of the spice, a couple of thawed spinach cubes (yes, even the frozen ones work), and you’ve got a farinata with delicious Indian flavours. No turmeric? No worries. Swap in saffron, and you’re still winning.
Zucchini, cubed and stir-fried in olive oil with chopped onions, until lightly golden. Then stir them in the farinata batter before baking it.
And because we’re not holding back, let’s talk potatoes. Boil ’em, mash ’em, toss ’em into the chickpea flour mix – because why settle for ordinary when you can have extraordinary?
Now, if you’re in the mood for a showstopper, let’s go ham and cheese. Add 100g of cooked ham and 200g of stringy cheese to the mix. Double the dough, layer it with the ham and cheese, and watch the magic happen in the oven.
Or, for a taste of spring, think salmon or shrimp and rocket. Quick and easy – toss them on the farinata fresh out of the oven, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and you’ve got a feast fit for royalty.
Ligurian chickpea farinata recipe
What does farinata mean in Italian?
In Italian, “farinata” typically refers to a savoury pancake or flatbread made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and seasonings. This dish is particularly popular in the regions of Liguria and Tuscany. The term “farinata” itself can be loosely translated to mean “flour-based” or “made from flour” in English.
What is another name for farinata?
In Italy, farinata is also known as “cecina” in some regions, and especially in Tuscany. In French cuisine, a similar dish from Nice is called “socca.”
What do you eat with farinata?
Farinata is often enjoyed on its own or with simple toppings. It pairs well with a sprinkle of black pepper and can be complemented with toppings such as thinly sliced red onions, rosemary, or even a drizzle of olive oil. Some people also enjoy it with a side salad or alongside other Italian antipasti dishes.
Is chickpea flour just ground chickpeas?
Yes, chickpea flour is made by grinding dried chickpeas into a fine powder. It is essentially ground chickpeas that have been processed into flour form. Chickpea flour is a versatile ingredient used in various cuisines for its nutty flavour and is known by different names in different regions, such as gram flour or besan in some parts of the world.
Is farinata fermented?
Farinata is typically not fermented. It is made by mixing chickpea flour with water, extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings. The mixture is then allowed to rest for several hours to ensure the chickpea flour is well dissolved and to develop its characteristic flavour, but this process is not fermentation in the same way that bread or certain other dishes undergo fermentation with yeast or bacteria. The resting period primarily helps with achieving a smoother batter and enhancing the taste of the dish.
Where did Farinata originate?
Farinata, also known as cecina in certain Italian regions, traces its origins to the historical region of Liguria in northwestern Italy. This iconic dish has a storied history dating back to ancient times, with some accounts suggesting that a bread similar to farinata was consumed by Roman soldiers during their military campaigns. While it’s a cherished part of Ligurian cuisine, variations of chickpea-based flatbreads akin to farinata can be found in various Mediterranean cultures, highlighting its enduring popularity and adaptability over the centuries.
What is the difference between panelle and farinata?
Panelle and farinata are both popular Italian dishes made from chickpea flour, but they have distinct differences:
Farinata: Farinata is primarily made from chickpea flour, water, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and sometimes rosemary.
Panelle: Panelle, on the other hand, is made from chickpea flour, water, and salt. It typically does not include olive oil in the mixture.
Farinata: Farinata is usually thicker and has a softer, custard-like texture with a slightly crispy exterior.
Panelle: Panelle is thinner and is often cut into rectangular or diamond-shaped pieces. It has a firmer texture and is more akin to a chickpea fritter.
3. Shape and Presentation:
Farinata: Farinata is typically baked in a round or rectangular pan and served in slices or wedges.
Panelle: Panelle is usually poured onto a flat surface, allowed to set, and then cut into shapes before frying.
4. Regional Variations:
Farinata: Farinata is most closely associated with the Liguria region in northwestern Italy, but variations of it can also be found in other parts of Italy and Mediterranean countries.
Panelle: Panelle is particularly associated with Sicilian cuisine and is a common street food in Palermo and other parts of Sicily.
While both dishes are made from chickpea flour and have a nutty, savoury flavour, these differences in ingredients, texture, and regional associations make them distinct dishes with their own unique characteristics and culinary traditions.
“Ciao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”
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