I recently learned that ciabatta was first introduced in Italy in the 1980s.
This is remarkable when you think of ciabattas and focaccias are now common throughout the world.
Its name comes from its shape, with ciabatta translating from the Italian as “slipper,” describing the flat, wide, and relatively long free-form shape of the traditional bread. I love to cut it in half horizontally, build a sandwich with the ingredients piled high, and then cut it, crosswise, into individual sandwiches. You can also cut holes in the top and fill them with different dips.
Ciabatta is most often used to make small sandwiches called panini. Throughout Italy, ciabatta comes in many forms, all depending upon the region in which it is made. It can be slightly crisp with a very soft, moist crumb; very crisp with a dense crumb; or extremely crisp with an open crumb. It can be flavored with herbs and olive oil, with milk, with salt, or with bits of savory ingredients. This is my version of the classic. —Lionel Vatinet