A popular use for Ciabatta bread is using it as the base for a panini – a grilled Italian sandwich. Ciabatta bread works particularly well for this purpose and its texture enables it to hold all the ingredients and withstand the heat and pressure of a panini grill. For this sandwich, the bread is sliced in half horizontally, meats, cheese, and vegetables are stacked in between, and the entire thing is placed in a panini grill – a hinged device which is made up of two ridged grill plates. This heats it up and gives it characteristic grill lines on top.
Given its dense and firm texture, Ciabatta bread can also be chopped up into cubes, and used to make croutons for salads, soups, and stuffings. The bread is chopped into small, bite-sized pieces using a knife, and these pieces are then tossed in olive oil and seasonings, and finally either fried or baked to develop a crisp texture.
Another famous Italian dish that utilises Ciabatta bread is the Antipasto – this refers to a platter, loaded with lots of small snacks, that is generally served before the main meal, as a sort of appetiser course. A traditional component in this is thin slices of toasted Ciabatta bread, with herbed and seasoned extra virgin olive oil for dipping. Since the bread is fairly hardy, it is unlikely to become soggy or crumble after dipping.
The Pappa al Pomodoro is another traditional Italian dish that uses Ciabatta bread. Originally a dish for peasants, who made it in order to use up stale bread and keep it from going to waste, this tomato-based soup incorporates stale bread cubes, to thicken the soup, and given it added substance.
In addition to being used in savoury dishes, Ciabatta bread can also be utilised in desserts such as French Toast (slices of bread dipped into sweetened, beaten egg, and then fried), and bread pudding (bread cubes mixed with custard, and baked). Since both these dishes require the bread to be immersed in liquids, Ciabatta bread is particularly suitable as its dense texture allows it to hold its own.