Cialledda

Cialledda (Bread and Tomato Salad)

In antipasti, Puglia by Frank26 Comments

One of things I find fascinating about Italian cookery—cookery in generally, really—is how you can take a culinary idea and, with a few subtle changes in ingredients or technique, get very different results. The frugal idea of mixing stale bread with chopped up tomatoes to make a salad, for example, gave us the world-famous panzanella from Tuscany and the lesser known caponata napoletana from the Campania region. Today we present la cialledda, yet another bread and tomato salad, this time from the regions of Puglia and Basilicata in the extreme south of the country.

For panzanella you soak and then shred Tuscan bread before mixing it with the tomatoes and other ingredients, including a bit of vinegar. For caponata napoletana a kind of hard biscuit known as the frisella is topped with a tomato salad, often enriched with savories like olives and anchovies and perhaps mozzarella cheese. For a cialledda, you mix stale bread of the rustic pugliese type (see Notes), cut into chunks and moistened a bit, with a simple, vinegarless tomato salad. Like the caponata you can enrich the dish with other ingredients. Of all these bread and tomato salads, I may like la cialledda the best. It’s the least elaborate, the most carefree, and equally delicious. The kind of cooking that, for me, says Summer.

Ingredients

  • Stale bread, cut into chunks (see Notes)

For the condimento:

  • Tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • A healthy pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, q.b.

Optional enrichments:

  • Red onions, cut into thin rings
  • A cucumber or, better, a carosello pugliese if you have access to one, cut into chunks
  • Olives
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Basil leaves

Directions

Cut or break the bread into chunks. Place in a bowl and sprinkle some water over the pieces, tossing gingerly so all the pieces get a bit of moisture. The point is to moisten the bread so it softens a bit, not to soak them through. Let the bread rest.

In a bowl, mix the tomatoes with the other dressing ingredients if using, other than the basil leaves. Let rest for 10-15 minutes. During this rest the tomatoes should exude enough juice to create a kind of ‘sauce’ or condimento that will dress the bread.

Add the dressing to the bowl with the bread. Toss one or twice and let rest another 10-15 minutes. Add the the basil leaves if using.

Serve your cialledda on individual plates, drizzled with some extra olive oil.

Notes on La cialledda

Like so many dishes of this sort, precise measurements aren’t particularly important, so none are given here. But you do want to keep the elements in balance. In particular you want enough tomato to moisten and flavor the bread. A bread-to-tomato ratio of no more than 2:1 should do the trick. Otherwise, let your personal taste, and what you have on hand, to be your guide. My Dad tells me that in the Pugliese side of our family back in the day, cialledda was mostly tomatoes with only a bit of bread.

As always, the quality of the ingredients is key.

What is important, however, is the quality of the ingredients. In Puglia, they would use the local pane di Altamura, while in Basilicata they swear by their bread, pane di Matera. For those of us without access to either, good quality, crusty bread, perhaps stale homemade pane casereccio, should do fine. As for any of these bread salads, you do need bread with a substantial crumb—sliced sandwich bread would just turn to mush.

Your tomatoes, which will provide the main flavoring for la cialledda, should be ripe and juicy and full of flavor. Your local farmer’s market is the best source for this kind of tomato, of course. But I find that ‘hot house’ tomatoes like Campari can also do the job reasonably well. Some recipes call for cherry tomatoes rather than regular ones—which is a good strategy here in the US, where cherry tomatoes often have more flavor. In Puglia the onion would surely be the famously sweet red ones of Aquaviva delle Fonti. And as mentioned above, many recipes call for the carosello pugliese, a kind of hybrid of the cucumber and the melon. And again, for “the rest of us” regular red onions and the lowly cucumber will have to do.

You can also tweak the resting times to suit your ingredients and your mood. The longer the wait, the most juices will exude from the tomatoes, and the longer the bread soaks with the tomato salad, the softer it will be.

This cialledda shouldn’t be confused with the hot, winter dish of the same name. It’s yet another frugal recipe for using up stale bread, cooked with broccoli rabe, olives, peperoncino and a few cherry tomatoes. To keep things straight, this salad is sometimes called cialledda fredda (or cold cialledda) and the hot dish cialledda calda.

Cialledda (Bread and Tomato Salad)

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Cialledda (Bread and Tomato Salad)

Ingredients

  • Stale bread, cut into chunks (see Notes)
  • For the condimento:
  • Tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • A healthy pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, q.b.
  • Optional enrichments:
  • Red onions, cut into thin rings
  • A cucumber or, better, a carosello pugliese if you have access to one, cut into chunks
  • Olives
  • Sliced bell peppers

Instructions

  1. Cut or break the bread into chunks. Place in a bowl and sprinkle some water over the pieces, tossing gingerly so all the pieces get a bit of moisture. The point is to moisten the bread so it softens a bit, not to soak them through. Let the bread rest.
  2. In a bowl, mix the tomatoes with the other dressing ingredients if using, other than the basil leaves. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the dressing to the bowl with the bread. Toss one or twice and let rest another 10-15 minutes. Add the the basil leaves if using.
  4. Serve your cialedda on individual plates, drizzled with some extra olive oil.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes
http://memoriediangelina.com/2016/06/24/cialledda/
No tags for this post.

Comments

  1. I saw that you mentioned the carosello pugliese in your recipe, which I believe is also called the carosello barattiere. I offer this variety of seeds as well as other carosello at Cucumbershop.com.

  2. It’s so wonderful that you share with us all these treasures of the Italian cuisine, providing the background behind the dish as well. Thanx so much Frank!
    Panos and Mirella

  3. Once again you have taught me about a dish I didn’t know of (even if I do know and make its more famous Tuscan cousin often). Interesting that in the old days they used more tomatoes than bread in Apulia. Probably they just used up the rest of the stale bread from the weekly bake, and there wasn’t much of it left, while there was always an abundance of tomatoes in the summer months. At least this is how my mother in law describes life in Sicily back in the day: her mother and her neighbors got up together once a week at about five to bake bread, which was then consumed over the whole week and eaten pretty stale the last few days.

    1. Author

      Nice to hear from you—it’s been a while! Trust you’ve been keeping well.

      Yep, this dish was all about frugality, so in those days they’d probably throw in however much old bread that happened to be on hand to use it up. I guess bread was a popular item in my family…

  4. This is a new one (to me). I actually am liking that the bread gets moistened – but not soggy. That’s been my problem with Italian bread salads – just don’t do mushy bread! The tomatoes are coming and I will stop feeding stale bread to the birds. What a fun salad!

  5. I’ve never heard of this version, but I know I’d love it with fresh, homegrown tomatoes! And people go spend thousands and thousands of dollars on unhealthy, bottled salad dressings! Craziness.

  6. Like Chiara, I’ve heard of panzanella and caponata, but cialledda is a new one to me. As always, you’re a great source of Italian culinary knowledge.

  7. Frank,
    All of my relatives come from Bisceglie, near Bari.
    I grew up on this and still make it today. Your version is almost exactly like ours. I’m in my early 60’s. It brings back such good memories!

  8. I love this dish. So simple yet so good. In the Monti Dauni area of Puglia (Foggia) we call it Acqua Sale. My friend Peppe Zullo even serves it as an antipasto in a little glass at his ristorante. Buon appetito, Cristina

    1. Author

      I love the idea of serving this dish in little glasses, part of that growing tradition of treating “humble” food with the honor and elegance it really deserves.

  9. Frank – your cialledda is actually more like what we have always made o panzanella. While we did use vinegar, the amount has decreased each time, especially if the tomatoes are perfect and ripe! Beautiful!

    1. Author

      I certainly agree that vinegar really should be used with discretion. Do you know the Italian saying salads: “Be a miser with the vinegar, a spendthrift with the oil and a judge with the salt.” Words to live by—or at least, to make a salad by…

  10. confesso che finora ignoravo l’esistenza di questo piatto, la panzanella e la caponata invece mi erano note,grazie per aver mostrato qualcosa di una regione italiana poco conosciuta ma bellissima, la Basilicata. Buon we Frank !

  11. I’ve never heard this name! Another beautiful salad with stale bread as the base. I would have to add other goodies, myself, but the salad is beautiful and I imagine, delicious!

Leave a Comment