Torta di ceci is a traditional, savory dish from the west coast of Italy, prepared with chickpea flour, water, salt and extra virgin olive oil that is baked in ovens in large, round metal baking tins. When cooked it has a bright golden colour.
Tradition has it that Torta di ceci was created by chance in 1284, after the Genoese defeated the Pisan fleet in the battle of the Meloria in the sea just off Livorno in Tuscany. During a storm the cargo of oil barrels and sacks of chick pea flour spilled onto the decks of the Genoese ships, getting mixed with sea water. The crew tried to recover whatever it could and fed the unwanted paste, of oil and chick pea flour, to the prisoner-rowers in their gruel bowls. In an attempt to improve the paste it was left in the sun to dry thereby turning into patties. Once they got home the Genoese decided to explore the potential of this food and cooked the patties in oven; so creating the first Torta di ceci.
Chickpeas flour is the main ingredient of the dish; being a pulse it is a rich source of protein and suitable for vegetarians. Chickpeas have long been a staple in the diet of the near East and are very popular in Egypt, the countries on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean from where their popularity spread to the Greeks and the Roman Empire.
However, it was in the tough post-war years that Torta di ceci became a very popular cheap street food, Livorno’s citizens could have a satisfying meal by spending “5 lire for the patty and 5 lira’s worth of bread”, that could be eaten on the go. Thus it acquired the name by which it would be known: Cinque e Cinque. The famous snack consisting of a mini baguette, filled with the patty and a generous sprinkling of pepper.
There are many shops that specialize in selling only this dish all along the Tyrrhenian coast.