Romagna's best bread.
To appreciate the piadina, one must first appreciate Romagna.
Declared the most 'foodie' of all Italian regions, the two central spaces of Emilia and Romagna have merged together to form one 'regione' stretching between Ravenna on the eastern, Adriatic coast to almost touching the west coast near Genova - Emilia Romagna. Here we find the capital of Bologna - Italy's top food destination, and serenely potent Modena - home of Ferrari, aceto balsamico and Osteria Francescana, voted best restaurant in the world in 2013 and 2016.
Immersed all this prestige, we munch on the humble piadina. A simple mixture of flour, fat and water, rolled flat and cooked in minutes, it's nothing fancy - no complicated slow-rise sourdough or triple-folded focaccia, this is one of the most ancient of bread-making methods. Said to originate in Etruscan times, these were once cooked on a terracotta teggia or testo in Romagnol dialect, nowadays the piadina is made on an electric skillet and mamma mia, is it good.
Time is taken in Emilia Romagna for the most renowned of flavours; dairy cows graze on lush grass producing rich flavourful Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto Crudo is matured in Parma and while this united region shares many things, including an array of impressive foods, the Romagnoli are particularly precious about their bread - a symbol of their territory, considered their private culinary pride and joy.
Their coveted street food is sold warm from simple kiosks along the roads called piadinerie where we gather around to buy them cooked al momento with our filling of choice - local cheeses, affettati, grilled vegetables or sweet fillings like Nutella, the Romagnoli are known for their warmth and infectious friendship, imbued in their food culture.
Geographically protected since 2014, the piadina romagnola may only be called as such if it follows an archived recipe to the T and is made in Romagna. If ever in doubt, the recipe is laid out in detail on the official website of the Consortium for the Promotion and Protection of the Piadina Romagnola, yep, it's serious stuff. Other piadine are made throughout Italy but they are always variations of the 'official'. Even in zona the piadina changes - around Ravenna, its made thicker while in Rimini they're typically thin and wide .
"Nothing speaks more of Romagna than this bread of ours... it is a symbol that speaks of devotion to our land." - Giovanni Pascoli
Festa della Piadina
But of course there's a sagra to celebrate the beloved piadina! To experience these flat breads with all fillings imaginable, there's no place more devoted than the Festa della Piadina in Bellaria named affectionately in dialect "La Pìs un po’ ma Tot” - "Piace un po a tutti" - "Everybody loves it a bit". This year from 8 to10 September 2023, the sea-side streets of Bellaria fill with tables, piadinerie, wine, dancing and song in a weekend-long feast.
The most classic of all must be squacquerone.
What on earth?
It's a local cheese.
But try to pronounce it... squac-queh-roh-neh!
This squishy, textured, creamy cheese and thinly-sliced Prosciutto Crudo di Parma is the Romagna go-to.
You can of course make a caprese-style piadina, you can also take crescenza or stracchino (both creamy, Italian cheeses that easily spread onto a piadina) and add any sliced cold meat. Olive tapenade is divine, as are grilled aubergines or zucchini, gorgonzola is another must.
Layer one half of your piadina and fold over the rest.
TOP TIP: Warm up piadine in the oven or directly on in a pan for a few minutes making sure they do not burn. That way they'll fold easily without breaking and smell gorgeous too. Don't even bother with a cold piadina, it's nowhere near as good.
00 Flour 500 g
Lard 125 g (or 80g of Extra-virgin Olive Oil)
Water 170 g - at room temperature
Fine salt 15 g
Baking soda 1½ teaspoon
Mix all ingredients and knead until smooth. Wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes,
Roll the dough and divide into 6 equal parts. Let these rest covered for a further 30 minutes.
Roll these out on a floured surface until 2/3mm thick and cook in a very hot, wide pan for 2 minutes on each side. Fill and eat warm.
NOTE: The baking powder is not essential but makes the breads more fragrant. Some milk can be used with water to make a softer version. These store well for 2 days and can be frozen.