Page #5 – The gift of fire

Where is focaccia originally from?

The ancient Romans with the term focus indicated the fire, but also more correctly the place of cooking. They used to cook a flatbread called focacius, precisely from focus.

Similar to white pizza, but higher and softer, there is not only one recipe for focaccia, which is present in the culinary tradition of all of Italy. However, the most famous version is certainly the one from Liguria, where, already in the 1300, it was called “fugassa”.

The ingredients always present in the focaccia are flour, water, yeast, salt and oil, but there are several regional variants, such as the Apulian focaccia which is also made with the addition of boiled potatoes to the dough and is garnished with cherry tomatoes.

The Genoese focaccia contains an important quantity of oil, and is particularly crumbly and soft thanks to a brine of water, oil and salt that is poured over the dough after laying it in the pan before the last leavening phase, during which the focaccia absorbs the liquid that during cooking will give it its characteristic fragrance.

Even in Tuscany the focaccia is very widespread, with the name of ciaccia or schiacciata, and it is a popular street food both simple or stuffed with Tuscan cheeses and salami.

Homemade focaccia directly from my oven and stuffed with fresh mozzarella, artichokes cream and Parma ham.

Where can you find the best stuffed focaccia in Italy?

If you are Italian or if you are simply a lover of good food, you probably know All’Antico Vinaio, a place in Florence (now even in Milan and soon to be in Rome) where absolutely delicious stuffed focaccias are served. If you don’t know it yet, I suggest you watch photos and videos on their instagram, but be prepared to get your minds blown away! You will be introduced to the magic created by steaming focaccia, poured cheese or pistachio sauces, layers of Tuscan pecorino, soft-hearted burrata, prosciutto, mortadella, Colonnata lard and so on. A riot of flavors that rightly made them famous abroad with two pop-up experiences in New York and Los Angeles that were sold out.

Before the lockdown, Noemi, a dear friend of Francesca, often visited London from Florence, and had the habit of bringing focaccias for the whole family. The week before her arrival, Violetta, Francesca, Maurizio and Federico were therefore very busy consulting the menu, looking for the most particular combinations to create their own gourmet focaccia.

Since the beginning of 2020, Covid is unfortunately depriving the whole family of the company of Noemi, and also of the focaccias of All’Antico Vinaio. Therefore Violetta, like at least half the people that stayed home from work, devoted herself to baking and developed her own focaccia recipe. She then ordered Tuscan pecorino cheese online, various Italian cured meats, she prepared cheese sauce, pistachio pesto, artichokes and aubergines creams, and finally they returned to savor the focaccia in the best possible way. Unfortunately it is not possible to find a way to have Noemi with us, but the focaccia was certainly very good and fragrant.

And when you take it out the oven, when it’s still so hot that you can literally see smoke coming out of it when you cut it, there’s only one thing you can say, exactly how people at All’Antico Vinaio say: bada come la fuma (look at it smoking)!

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