This focaccia recipe, topped with caramelized onions and tomatoes, is inspired by a trip to Italy and a meeting with a kind-hearted Italian grandmother.
I learned many years ago not to question Italian grandmothers when it comes to matters of the kitchen, particularly when these matters involve a classic focaccia recipe and gnocchi. When I was in my early twenties, making an epic backpacking trip around Europe (well, it was epic to me anyways), my friend and I stayed at a charming pensione, named Chicco di Grano, in the heart of Tuscany.
While the family-run inn was not the luxurious Italian villa that regularly stars in my daydreams, it was many steps above the bunk-sleeping, shower-sharing youth hostels of our travels to that point.
Nestled at the top of a long driveway lined by prolific olive trees and host to an expansive view of the surrounding vineyards and groves, Chicco di Grano was the destination of many Italian travelers. Perhaps our very limited handle of the Italian language (counting from one to ten doesn’t count) was why we got off on the wrong foot with the proprietor’s elderly mother.
Dinners at Chicco di Grano were enjoyed at the long wooden table set on the stone patio. If you were the newcomers, as we were the first night, you were seated at the end of the table furthest away from the hosts, Paolo and Jean – and Paolo’s mother (we’ll call her Nonna). As guests departed on subsequent nights, the newcomers became old-timers and moved up the table. It was that first night that we were under the intense scrutiny of Nonna.
Each time I looked up the table, she was studying us, never sparing a smile for either my friend or me. What had we done to offend her? Had we broken some cardinal rule of Italian dining? With some trepidation, we arrived at the breakfast table the next morning. When Nonna came into the room, she shuffled over to us, wished us a hearty “Buongiorno”, pulled each of us down to her, and planted kisses on our cheeks.
Besides being effusive in our compliments of the dinner and throwing a wild party in our room, we had no idea how we made our way into her good graces overnight. It was not to be questioned. As the days went by, we spent many hours around that table on the patio, diving into the wonderful meals, sipping wine, and dancing under the stars with Paolo and the other guests.
The day before we departed Chicco di Grano, Nonna beckoned us into the kitchen. Through hand gestures and patient demonstration, she taught us to make her rosemary-infused focaccia and pillowy gnocchi. Those couple of hours lit a culinary fire in me and taught me about the importance of taking care in preparing meals for those you love.
My notes from that lesson were tucked away in my travel journal that my parents found recently. Unfortunately, I was missing the amounts for a couple of the focaccia ingredients. So, the basic focaccia recipe is from Food & Wine Magazine. The toppings, however, are Nonna-inspired. I think she would have approved.
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp honey
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- ½ cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 medium tomato, cut into ¼-inch slices
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed from stem
- ⅓ cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan cheese
- In a medium bowl, stir together yeast, warm water, and honey.
- Let rest until yeast blooms and bubbles form on top, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in flour, ¼ cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until dough is smooth, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Remove dough from bowl and press it into a lightly oiled 9- by 13-inch baking sheet until it touches the edges.
- Using your finger, poke holes all over the dough.
- Drizzle the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Let rest until the dough becomes puffy, about 20 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.
- Add onion slices, cover and cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Top the dough with tomato slices, caramelized onions, rosemary, Parmesan cheese, and salt.
- Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Bake until the focaccia is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack. Cut into pieces and serve.
You can find complete recipes of this FOCACCIA RECIPE WITH CARAMELIZED ONION, TOMATO & ROSEMARY in cookincanuck.com