When Italian immigrants poured into the River Plate region of Argentina and Uruguay, they brought with them numerous recipes from the “old country,” among them the formula for a simple yet tasty flatbread made from chickpea flour. Although known as farinata in standard Italian, Argentines and Uruguayans call the dish fainá — its name in the Genovese dialect — as a result of the influence of vast numbers of recently-arrived natives of the Italian port city of Genoa.
Fainá, with its slightly crispy outside and soft, almost creamy interior, tastes great all by itself; however, Argentines traditionally eat fainá as an accompaniment to pizza, stacking a slice of each, one on top of the other. A visit to an old-school pizzeria in Buenos Aires just isn’t complete without a slice of pizza paired with fainá, known locally as pizza a caballo.
In addition to the simplicity of its preparation and satisfying flavor, fainá has the added bonus of being both vegan-friendly and gluten-free. Look for chickpea (also called garbanzo) flour at natural food stores or ethnic grocers, particularly those carrying Indian or Middle Eastern products.
Fainá (Chickpea Flatbread)
4 cups water
2¾ cups chickpea flour
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons to grease the pan
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary [optional]
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Equipment: 12-inch pizza pan or cast-iron skillet
Pour water into a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in chickpea flour until smooth. Whisk in grated cheese. Cover and let stand at room temperature at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Skim any foam off the batter, then whisk in ¼ cup of olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.
Grease the pizza pan or skillet with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and pour the batter into the pan (batter should be about ¼-inch thick but no more than ½ inch). Bake until fainá crisps around the edges, pulls away from the sides of the pan, and turns lightly golden on top, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
Cut the fainá into wedges and serve hot (with or without pizza).