5 mins

How to make pane frattau, a Sardinian classic

This charming Sardinian dish requires minimal effort, thanks to Bitter Honey author Letitia Clark's modernised recipe. Cook all in one dish, and serve for a delicious brunch or solo lunch...

(©Matt Russell)

All around the world, one finds different versions of a tomato-and-egg-based dish. There is the well-loved shakshuka and the Italian ‘eggs in purgatory’. And then there is the Sardinian pane frattau (broken bread in Sardo).

The story of this dish is a charming one. The shepherds carried their sheets of pane carasau in their saddle bags whilst away from home watching their herds. After eating the bigger pieces, the broken shards that remained in the bottom of the bags were soaked in broth, layered with tomato sauce and cheese and cooked with an egg on top.

A dish born of necessity and economy. Traditionally, the tomato sauce is layered between leftover shards of pane carasau, which are softened in meat broth, then the whole lot is baked and subsequently topped with a poached egg and some grated pecorino before serving.

I have updated and tweaked the traditional method slightly to allow for those of us who don’t always have broth on hand, and also to minimise effort, with everything cooked in the same dish. Thus, there is no need for poaching the egg.

An excellent brunch, or a good solo lunch. Almost like a cheat’s lasagne, much quicker to make, vegetarian, and just as good. You will be surprised how much liquid the pane carasau absorbs – it becomes almost pasta-like in texture.

Though it’s not traditional, I like this with a good pinch of chilli flakes on top...

How to make pane frattau

(©Matt Russell)

(©Matt Russell)

Ingredients (to serve four):

One quantity of Nonna’s tomato sauce (see below)

800ml (27 fl oz) hot stock, ideally homemade, but fine with good quality shop-bought

Eight sheets of pane carasau

150 g (5¼ oz) pecorino

Grated handful of basil leaves

Torn sea salt

Four eggs

Pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

Green salad, to serve

How to make pane frattau:

Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF/Gas 6). Warm up your sauce and your stock in separate saucepans. Choose a nice deep gratin dish (I always make this in a round terracotta one). Cover the bottom with a layer of pane carasau.

Spoon over a generous ladle of the warm stock and let it soak in. Then spoon over a ladleful of your tomato sauce and sprinkle over a handful of the cheese. Add a shred or two of basil.

Repeat this process, layering up the bread soaked with stock, the sauce and cheese as though you were making lasagne. Save some cheese and basil for the very top. I normally make around four to six layers.

When you have finished layering, if there is any stock left, drizzle it around the sides and edges to make sure everything is nice and saucy. Finally, make little dents in the top of the dish to contain your eggs.

Crack the eggs into their little nooks, sprinkle over the remaining cheese and basil, add a pinch of salt on the yolks and a little pinch of chilli flakes, if using, and place in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the eggs whites are set. Eat with a green salad.

How to make Nonna's tomato sauce

(©Matt Russell)

(©Matt Russell)

Ingredients (serves four to six):

Two tablespoons olive oil, for frying

One small white onion, peeled and halved

800g (1lb 12oz) Antonella Tomatoes, passed through a mouli

Three tablespoons best-quality olive oil

Sea salt

Method:

Heat the first batch of oil gently and place in the onion halves. Stir them around for a few minutes until they start to sizzle, then add the tomatoes. Cook at a very low simmer for half an hour or more, until the onion is completely tender and has collapsed into silky petals.

Either remove the onion or blitz it into the sauce with a hand blender. I opt for the latter as I hate to throw it away. Stir the sauce and add the very good olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Stir again and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Use as required.

Enjoy more Sardinian recipes

Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark (Hardie Grant, hardback & ebook) is available to buy now. Photography by Matt Russell.

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