Ciabatta bread is a type of Italian white bread with a tangy, yet sweet taste. The bread’s name means “slipper” in Italian, because its slightly rounded rectangular shape appears similar to a soft slipper. It is a versatile type of bread with a firm texture that can withstand both heavy ingredients and high cooking temperatures.
One of the most common uses for ciabatta is for a grilled Italian sandwich known as a panini. A panini is made up of stacked meats, cheese, and vegetables that are placed on bread and heated in a panini grill, a hinged device that presses the sandwich between two ridged grill plates. This type of bread works particularly well for these sandwiches because its texture can hold multiple ingredients and it can be pressed without becoming soggy or falling apart.
Antipasto is an Italian term that refers to a group of small appetizers that are served before meals. A dish often included in a traditional Italian antipasto platter is ciabatta bread served with olive oil. The bread is dipped into plain olive oil or olive oil that is mixed with chopped herbs. This type of bread is popular for dipping in oil because it will absorb the oil without becoming overly soft or breaking.
Another traditional Italian dish that often incorporates this bread is pappa al pomodoro. It is a thick tomato-based soup that is mixed with stale bread cubes that absorb the tomato juices, as well as add substance to the soup and make it more filling. Pappa al pomodoro was historically a peasant’s food because it required few ingredients and prevented wasting stale bread.
Ciabatta can also be used to make croutons to serve on top of salads to provide different texture and flavor. The bread is chopped up into bite-sized pieces and tossed in olive oil and garlic or other seasonings. The pieces are then baked or fried until they become crispy. Ciabatta-based croutons can also be served with soups or cooked with vegetables and other flavors and made into a dressing or stuffing.
Although ciabatta bread is generally used for savory purposes, it can also be incorporated into sweeter dishes. Bread pudding, a combination of cubed or sliced bread that is mixed with custard, often requires a sturdy, textured bread like ciabatta because it will soak up the custard without breaking. It can also coated with beaten eggs and lightly cooked to make French toast.