Piadina – a Recipe from Emilia-Romagna
Not many people outside Italy know of the culinary rivalry between the two parts of Emilia-Romagna, (Emilia and Romagna). In fact, it is likely not many people outside the region itself know about it! The truth is that Emilia-Romagna is the area in Italy with the best food (yes, we are biased, but reputable journalists have concluded the same thing) and neither of its two parts is ready to give up the title of Italian capital of good food. Emilia has prosciutto, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, tortellini, Bolognese sauce (ragù), tigelle, crescentine, etc. Romagna has cappelletti, passatelli, ciccioli, crescioni, piadina, etc. As someone who was born and raised in Romagna, I feel like I have a moral obligation to know how to make piadina, because for Italy at least it has become a symbol of this area. There are several opinions – schools of thought, almost – on what the “real” piadina should be like: if you talk to an azdora in Rimini (in dialect: a housewife, usually with strong cooking skills), she will tell you that the real piadina must be very thin. Where I live, in Forlì, we would laugh at such nonsense, as we want our piadina to be thick, sometimes so thick that you can cut it in a half and put prosciutto INSIDE rather than ON it. Other differences and points of discussion revolve around the “correct” ingredients – of course: olive oil or lard, for example. But the truth is probably that there is not a “right” way to make it: the important thing is to eat it with your friends, accompanied with a good glass of Sangiovese, possibly while listening to the unofficial “regional anthem” Romagna mia…it doesn’t get much more romagnolo than this!
If you cycle around Romagna you may run across kiosks dotting the road (especially on the beach) that sell Piadina. These are the best places to stop as the piadina is made fresh right there in front of you!
The first known historical document that mentions piadina dates back to the 14th century and the recipe has probably changed since then, as richer ingredients have become affordable for everyone.
I would like to share my special version of it: my grandma’s recipe, which I dearly treasure.
- 1 kg flour (approx 8 cups of All purpose flour)
- 2 packets of yeast (around 30 g) – the instantaneous yeast used in italy is similar to American Baking Powder. So approximately 2 tablespoons
- 150g lard (10 tablespoons) or 5.3 ozs lard
- 1 tablespoon honey,
- 300 mL milk, 1 and 1/4 cup milk
- 200 mL water, 3/4 cup water
- 2-3 pinches of salt
Mix water and milk and slowly warm them up. Melt the lard and the honey in the resulting lukewarm blend and then set aside. In the meantime, on a flat surface (it can be a big wooden cutting board or a marble counter – or if that is not available in a large mixing bowl) mix all the dry ingredients and then create a “volcano” by leaving a hole in the center (wide enough to contain the liquid mix). Slowly and carefully pour the liquid mix in the center of the volcano and then, just as slowly, start to mix the dry and the wet ingredients. Adjust the texture of the dough (which should not be sticky, but soft) by adding milk or flour. Knead the dough for a while and, when it’s homogeneous, put it in a bowl covered with a damp cloth. Let it rest for a few hours at room temperature (or in the refrigerator, but in this case make sure you take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before starting to cook it).
When you are ready to cook the piadina, find a flat pan. In Romagna there is a pan for it: flat terracotta pan called testo, that is usually used on a wood-burning stove. But don’t worry: a nonstick pan on a regular stove will do the trick.
Every piadina should weigh around 200 g, i.e. be 0.5 cm thick and have a 20 cm diameter. Before cooking it, pierce the surface with a fork, so that it won’t make bubbles. Cook both sides over a medium heat until brown dots appear on the whole surface.
Try it with (my all-time favorite piadinas)
- Prosciutto, squaquerone (soft cheese typical of Romagna), fresh tomato and arugula (rocket)
- Italian sausage, grilled onion and grilled peppers
- Nutella and coconut flakes
There are endless combinations of ingredients, so hurry up: find out which one is your favorite and enjoy!