It was the last day of our two-week stay in Sardinia (Italy’s second largest island, Sicily being number one). An early evening flight back to Dublin to stay with our travel companions/good friends for a few more days before heading back to the States allowed for one more leisurely day at the beach. We spent the previous two weeks driving around the island, starting in Alghero on the northwest side down to Cagliari in the south, working our way back up the eastern part of the island then north to Costa Smeralda. We soaked up the sun the entire time, nary a drop of rain threatening to dampen our vacation. The biggest decision we had each day? Ranking all the magical beaches we’ve seen and arguing about which was best–everyone had his/her favorite spot. There was absolutely no warning of the wild ride awaiting us on our last evening.
On our way to the airport the weather changed…and fast. Clear blue skies gave way to strong winds and furious gray clouds that wasted no time dumping on us. A few miles away from the airport traffic stopped and we had to pull over due to lack of visibility. My husband, my friends and I could only laugh in disbelief as we sat in our car waiting for the freak storm to pass. Our poor rental car had to endure attacks from the wind and giant hailstones. The video we took to capture the moment is now gone but we will never forget it.
In that short amount of time power lines were knocked down and trees fell, blocking the roads, delaying our arrival at the airport. It hardly mattered anyway. Once we finally got there, it was clear that we seemed to fare better against the storm than the building did. Part of the roof was torn off, as well as the building’s air-conditioning system. It came as no surprise to us to learn that all inbound and outbound flights were cancelled…indefinitely. We would stay in Sardinia another night.
With very limited flights arriving in and leaving Sardinia, our best course was to take a detour instead of counting on a direct flight back to Dublin. Orbitz was a godsend the following morning as I was able to book a flight to Rome just a couple of hours before its scheduled departure time. Our seats were confirmed and we expected to be back in Dublin following this several-hour layover. There wasn’t quite enough time to leave the airport to take in the sites so we whiled away the hours reading and window shopping.
Me? I ate. I stuffed myself with as much Italian treats as possible. One thing I have never quite forgotten were some rolls I bought from one of the airport’s sandwich shops. They were dotted with pancetta (and even eggs, I believe), satisfying my desire for a little salty meat to go with the bread. I have been meaning to try them at home for years–finally, the time came this past weekend.
I tweaked my version a bit by adding olives to these rolls. Olive bread has always been a favorite of mine and I thought it would pair well with the pancetta. Even better, I used a no-knead bread recipe to make it easier on myself. One batch of dough will make 3 or 4 loaves or 18-24 rolls and the dough will last for a week so you’d be set after only a few minutes of prep work. I’ve just enjoyed my second batch and am so grateful for I’ll have enough to last the weekend. They’re very hard to resist especially with not just one, but two, savory surprises inside! Just maybe, discovering those rolls at the airport was worth our travel hiccups…maybe.
* By the way, another hiccup on this trip? As we boarded our plane to Dublin, airline personnel refused to let me on due to some “issues” with my ticket. Mind you, my friends and husband have just been allowed through and I booked these tickets all at the same time. I had to frantically call Orbitz back to confirm the validity of my ticket (never mind that we all successfully checked in earlier). My travel companions are watching the scene unfold. I’m starting to raise my voice, my husband knowing better than to intervene on my behalf at that point. Smoke must have begun to come out of my ears as I tried to reason with the attendant. Eventually, he allowed me to pass. I think it took quite a few hours and a pint of Guinness once we were back in Dublin before I was able to release the stress of the previous two days!
Sardinia is still our #1 place to visit…one day I’ll share with you our adventures from visit #2!
- 3 cups lukewarm water (about 105°F)
- 1½ tablespoons granulated yeast
- ¾ tablespoon kosher salt
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup green olives, chopped (I used Sicilian green olives in olive oil)
- ¼ cup olive tapenade (alternatively, you can use ½ cup of either the chopped olives or the tapenade instead of both)
- 4 ounces pancetta (cut in small cubes, browned and drained of excess fat)
- To Mix and Store the Dough: Using a large container with a lid (about 5 quarts), combine the yeast and salt with the water. Next add the flour, olives, tapenade and cooked pancetta. Using a large spoon, mix everything together until no loose flour remains.
- Cover the container (not airtight) and let the dough rest at room temperature until the dough rises and flattens at the top (about 2 hours).
- The dough will be ready to use at this point but it is much easier to work with after it has been refrigerated. Store in the refrigerator with the lid (not airtight) for up to 7 days.
- When you're ready to Bake: Dust the top of the dough with a little flour and cut off a 1 pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and shape into a ball by stretching the dough around to the bottom. On a lightly-floured surface, cut the ball into six pieces and roll each into a ball. Let the balls rest on a pizza peel sprinkled with corn meal for about 40 minutes.
- minutes before baking, Preheat your oven to 450°F with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on the top or bottom rack.
- Slash the tops of the dough with a knife before you slide them onto the baking stone. Alternatively, you can transfer the dough one at a time using a spatula sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
- Pour 1 cup of hot water in the broiler tray to create steam as the rolls bake.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are brown and firm. Cool on a wire rack before serving.