Hello my friends!
Today I am going to tell you all about Italian bread. Not the sort of "bread" Del Boy is always talking about, I mean the stuff made with flour and yeast.
Bread or "pane" is an absolute staple of the Italian diet and is as much a part of my life as pasta and sunshine. Whether you toast it, wrap it, crumb it or stuff it, there are loads of different Italian breads to choose from.
Lots of you will have heard of panini which comes from the Italian word for sandwich "panino." If you go to Italy this year, you will see signs and street carts everywhere saying "paninoteca" which means sandwich bar.
Go there for cheap, simple tasty food Italian style! A typical panini could be made on ciabatta or a nice artisan bread and filled with an authentic Italian cheese or meat like prosciutto. You don't need to include loads of layers of filling; a classic panini tastes beautiful because of it's simplicity and fresh ingredients. Don't forget to add seasoning though, it can make all the difference between a boring panini and an extra special taste experience.
Ciabatta is flattish floury bread originally made in Liguria in northern Italy. Although ciabatta is the Italian word for slipper, you do not put them on your feet! If you haven't yet tasted freshly baked ciabatta dipped in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and a little Balsamic vinegar, you haven't lived my friends. Here, I show you how to make ciabatta croutons in my recipe for Zuppa di Porri e Rucola (Leek, Potato and Rocket Soup).
If you are lucky enough to have my Eating Italian iPhone app (soon coming on Nokia and Android, in case you hadn't heard) you will have access to my recipe for another Italian bread-based classic, bruschetta. I use ciabatta for this, toasted and covered in plum tomatoes and basil leaves. So simple, so delicious and SO Italian!
Focaccia is another Italian oven-baked bread which is flat in shape and usually topped with something like herbs, vegetables or cheese. Lots of Italian bambini have a slice of this for their packed lunch at school. I made a delicious stuffed focaccia earlier in the year on This Morning.
You may have seen Italian grissini in your local deli or at the supermarket. These are long thin stick-like breads that originally come from Turin. Authentic grissini are hand crafted and irregular in shape. They are such a useful bread and kids love dipping them in things like my bagna cauda (traditional Italian garlic dip) available on the Eating Italian app. In Italy, many restaurants serve grissini as an appetizer and it has been known for my boys to eat so many of them that they had no room left for their dinner so watch out!
Have fun trying the different types of "pane" and let me know your favourite Italian panini combinations...