One of the most popular and favorite street foods in Genoa and all of the Liguria region is the farinata, a delicious Italian dish made with very simple and few ingredients, the main of which is chickpea flour. It might seem difficult, but the farinata recipe is pretty easy. Even though in Genoa they bake it in wooden ovens, the normal gas or electric one you have at home will work just fine.
Liguria culinary tradition is rich in simple yet extremely flavorful dishes such as the light pesto sauce and the same farinata. Its closeness to the sea makes it naturally rich in fish and seafood recipes so whether you are in Genoa, La Spezia, the Cinque Terre, or the exclusive Portofino, take advantage of a healthy cuisine to carry on with your sightseeing and plenty of hiking.
What is farinata?
Street food, traditional dish. But what is farinata, exactly? Farinata is a thin savory pie usually baked in the oven but that can be very nice also when cooked in the pan. Baking it in the oven results in a crunchy crust, but sometimes I make it in the pan and it also gives me a lovely crisp.
Farinata Recipe – Ingredients and Instructions
Farinata ingredients for 1 tray
- 150 gr of chickpea flour. I always suggest organic flour.
- 400 ml of water. It can be tap water, even though if that’s too hard, I would suggest using mineral water.
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Better if unrefined sea salt.
- 30 ml of olive oil. It must be extravirgin, better if organic.
- Rosemary. This is optional and to taste.
- Oil for the baking tray. This is needed to avoid the farinata to stick to the tray. I suggest using a good quality extra virgin olive oil here, too.
How to make farinata instructions
The farinata recipe is very easy, but paradoxically, this might be misleading. Easy doesn’t mean that you can forget a step. There are very few steps but I suggest you stick to them for a top result.
- Sift the chickpea flour. This first step is very important to avoid lumps that can be pretty big with this type of flour.
- Add the water. While you add the water, gently stir with a spoon or better by using a whisk
- Add the salt.
- Add the olive oil.
- Let the flour rest. Cover it and leave it for at least two hours, but if you can start preparing early, you can let the mixture sit for 4 to 5 hours.
- Remove the foam. If the flour produced some foam when soaking, remove it with a skimmer and stir the mixture.
- Add the rosemary. This is optional, but rosemary and chickpeas make a fantastic combination so if you have it at home, you can add some. I’m sure you will love it.
- Grease the tray. Use the same good quality olive oil.
- Pour the mixture into the tray. If you are baking the farinata, with these are the measures you can use a tray with a diameter of 28 cm (around 11 inches) or 32 cm (12.5 inches). If you are cooking it on the pan, after greasing it, heat it up and pour the mixture when it’s quite hot.
- Put into the oven. Place your farinata tray on the lowest part of a conventional oven preheated at 250°C for 10 minutes, then move it to a higher layer for another 15 minutes. If you use a convectional oven, you might want to use a lower temperature, so 210 to 220°C from the beginning and keep it some 8 minutes on the lower part of the oven.
Tips for a better result
- Don’t skip soaking the flour. Leaving the flour to soak in water is a very important step of the farinata recipe not only for the best result but also for ease in digesting. Let’s not forget that chickpea flour is still chickpea, and before cooking the chickpeas we always soak them overnight. I actually leave them to soak for 48 hours by changing the water some three times, and sometimes I leave the chickpea flour overnight before making my farinata or pancakes.
- Enough oil for the tray. You don’t need a huge amount of oil here, but not even too little because the chickpea flour tends to stick more than other flours. So, make sure you create a thin layer of oil without leaving “holes”.
- Don’t forget to remove the foam. This will make it easier on your stomach and will also prevent the farinata from darkening instead of maintaining its lovely golden hues.
- You can use the pan. This would make it more of an eggless frittata rather than a farinata, but if you are looking for a faster meal give it a try.
Alternative farinata versions
The above farinata recipe is the classic and most simple one, but there are plenty of different versions you can make so that the dish is never boring and you still get a nutritious, protein-rich meal. So what are variants can you make? Think about adding your favorite veggies to the mixture right before baking it, so after the flour has soaked in the water.
I have made it with spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms, onions, and zucchini and they were all absolutely delicious. If you cook it in the pan, it becomes a great alternative to the classic frittata especially, but not only, if you are a vegan and don’t eat eggs.
If you want to make any of these alternative options of our recipe of the farinata, you need to cook your veggies before mixing them with the flour. In the case of zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and spinach, I found that simply cooking them in a pan makes them perfect, provided that you are sure you cook them until the excess moisture is finished. When I made it with sweet potatoes or pumpkin, my best result was when I baked the veggies first, especially the pumpkin, with some herbs and spices. This made the whole eggless “frittata” much tastier.
If you are baking your farinata, along with the rosemary, if you like it, you can add some spices like curry. Purists of the classic farinata recipe might not agree, but it makes it delicious.
A bit of history
Farinata is one of those delicious dishes that we inherited from our poverty-stricken ancestors, those whose dire conditions were probably what made them creative and resourceful.
The origins of this simple farinata recipe are very old, some say even to ancient Greek times, but there is a more recent myth around the beloved dish that places its birth in 1284 when Genoa defeated Pisa in the Meloria battle. According to the legend, a storm caused the oil and chickpea flour tanks to spill out and mix with the sea water, and sailors tried to save as much as they could by mixing them and placing the mixture under the sun to dry. Once landed, locals adapted and improved the impromptu recipe that became what we call now farinata genovese.
Being prepared with such few and simple ingredients easy to source everywhere in Italy makes it a common dish also in other cities and regions, each cooking up their own version. So we have Pisa’s cecina, Sardinian fainè from the town of Sassari, or Piedmont socca, all made with chickpea flour and all a delicious street food to try for a casual yet nutritious meal.