How Sardinia's Pane Frattau Traditionally Made Delicious Use Of Leftover Flatbread

With zero-waste cooking making a resurgence, it's easy to forget resourceful cooking has been around for centuries. Few foods have amassed a range of techniques quite like stale bread  — from breadcrumbs to a soup thickener, there's never a reason to throw out a dry loaf. And in Sardinia, a dish called pane frattau serves precisely such a purpose. 

Pane frattau is made from old pane carasau, a thin local loaf reminiscent of flatbread, and it rehydrates bread in a flavorful broth and stacks the dough with cheese. It is now a staple in restaurants across Sardinia; however, the dish's emergence is far more nomadic.

History tells us that shepherds would place the large circular pane carasau into their leather backpacks, where it would crumble into pieces alongside cured foods like sausage and pecorino. Once home after their journey, they'd rehydrate the bread and top it with the shelf-stable goodies. Back then, it was an ingenious staple, and it's now altered into something delicious.

How to prepare pane frattau

Nowadays, no need to reach for a leather backpack. Instead, the dish builds upon a simple but flavorful vegetable broth. Onions, garlic, and a passata sauce are boiled in a pot of water. An egg is poached in the flavorful liquid and serves as a topping for the dish. Then, the wide circular sheets of pane carasau are dipped into the hot bread for a few seconds on each side to moisten. The technique takes some practice, and it's done by hand to guarantee the bread doesn't break apart.

Once the texture is just right, tomato sauce and grated pecorino are tossed between each layer of bread. Some embellish the meal further, adding everything from roasted vegetables to meat stew alongside the deliciously soft dough. To serve, the poached egg is broken over the top, then the bread is divided into four slices and rolled up. Quick and clever, this repurposing of leftover pane carasau is hardly an afterthought.