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Bread of sorrow

We ate pane cunzatu in Scopello, Sicily, which is one of the loveliest places in the world. I’ve made so many attempts to recreate this sandwich – using the ingredients available to me from our local Waitrose – that I can’t really remember the original. My version is pretty good, though.


Ciabatta, beef tomatoes (the Jack Hawkins ones, if they’ve got them), the most expensive buffalo mozzarella in the shop, anchovy paste (or just fry some tinned anchovies in their own oil for three minutes and mash them with a fork), fancy extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil.


Warm the ciabatta, assuming you’re too lazy to bake your own bread. Prepare the ingredients so you can spring into action when the oven beeps: slice the tomatoes, peel the tricky film off the top of the mozzarella pot, tear the basil etc.

Slice the ciabatta down its middle, like it’s a big long bap. Drizzle olive oil generously on both of the inside faces, adding to the olive oil that your bread’s made of. Smear on the anchovy paste, also on both halves. Some people don’t like it too anchovy-y, but they’re wrong.

Layer the tomato slices, maximising coverage without overlapping. Keep moving, the bread’s getting cold. Sprinkle big flakes of salt on the tomato. Now add fleshy blobs of mozzarella, either sliced or torn with your nice clean fingers, and grind pepper over it. It must be tomato, then salt, then mozzarella, then pepper.

Add the lightly torn basil, making sure that bits of it will peak through the edges of the closed ciabatta. My family like me to slosh a bit of ‘mozzarella juice’ (the faintly saline liquid that the mozzarella is packaged in) over the upper inside face of the sandwich, but I can’t sanction this, for obvious reasons.

Cut the ciabatta in half, put it on a colourful plate and demand that someone eats it quickly while you start the next one. Make sure you save enough ingredients for yours, which will come last, and should be slightly more generously filled than the others, but not so much that anyone will notice.

November 18, 2020