I savored so many memorable bites during our travels around Italy. I wrote a small diary of our days, recounting the funny stories that travel often gifts us with, along with notes of the food we encountered. When I think of this pesto filled focaccia that I tried in the small village of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, my mouth still waters.
It was mid afternoon and we had just arrived to Vernazza by train. Past Everett’s usual nap time, and past all of our lunch times, we were a bit tired and hungry. We awaited our host in a spot on the main drag of town where we had delegated as a meeting spot. Waiting in Italy is never a hassle or frustrating. It just is. And when there’s a cafe selling focaccia nearby it can even be a blessing in disguise. I found the cafe in hopes of taking my short traveling buddy to the bathroom then smelled the focaccia. We arrived back to Josh with our hands full of fresh oily bread with an assortment of fillings and toppings. I tore apart one that was filled with pesto and gave half to Everett. He and I sat on a concrete stair our legs dangling on the brick walkway through town. We ate alongside many other travelers who were possibly also waiting or just wading after a hike or stroll.
Our host eventually showed up and the focaccia quickly disappeared but it was the perfect first welcoming bite of the Cinque Terre. Here is my homemade version of just a small taste of our trip. I think it would be perfect for a holiday party or to go along with a bowl of soup one wintry day.
- 3 3/4 cups flour, 500 grams
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more for sprinkling the top of the bread
- 1 1/3 cups warm water
- 1 1/4 teaspoon fast action yeast
- 3 tablespoons oil, plus more for greasing a cast iron skillet
- 1 cup pesto
In a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, mix together flour with salt. Dissolve yeast into the warm water. Gradually add water into the flour mixer while its on a low speed, then add the oil. Keep the mixer on low until all of the flour is incorporated and a ball is formed.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Lightly oil the mixing bowl you used or another bowl and place the dough into the bowl to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Oil a cast iron skillet and punch down the dough. Stretch the dough out into the skillet and flip it over making sure both sides of the dough are oiled. Use your finger tip or thumb to make indentations around the dough. Cover the skillet with plastic wrap to rise another 30 minutes or so. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with coarse sea salt then place focaccia into the hot oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown, rotating half way through.
Remove bread from oven and let cool slightly in pan - 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool another 10 minutes then slice through the center of the bread and spread the pesto out evenly. Place the top of the bread back on and slice into individual pieces.
Serve warm with soup or stew.