Piadina is a traditional flatbread from the Italian historical region of Romagna.
The name piadina (plural: piadine) is a diminutive form of piada (used interchangeably to refer to the same preparation), which originates from the Greek pláthanon: “long dish, baking tray.” Since 2014, ‘piadina’ is registered as Protected Geographical Indication (Indicazione Geografica Protetta, or IGP, in Italian.)
Traditionally, piadina is made of flour, water, salt, and a small amount of lard (strutto in Italian). For a vegetarian recipe, the lard can be substituted with olive oil or margarine. Through the centuries, from a simple bread alternative, piadina has become an iconic symbol of the Romagna region and a widely popular product. Nowadays, it can be enjoyed in special establishments called Piadinerie (plural of Piadineria), which can also be found in big northern Italian cities outside of the Romagna region.
The piadina can be served as a kind of bread to accompany meals, but it’s more commonly enjoyed folded in half and filled with various cheeses, cold cuts, or roasted vegetables. One of the most popular fillings is Squacquerone (a fresh cheese which has a protected designation of origin from Romagna), prosciutto crudo (dry-cured ham), and rocket (arugula).
Having grown up in the province of Milan, I only became familiar with piadina during one of my family’s summer trips to the Adriatic seaside resort of Emilia-Romagna, a popular destination for Italian and north European tourists who are looking for long sandy beaches, shallow Mediterranean waters, amazing food, and exciting nightlife. I remember trying my first piadina in a small theme park called Fiabilandia, in Rivazzurra di Rimini. It was filled with prosciutto crudo, and for me, it was a welcome revelation—one of the first of the many kinds of Italian regional food that I went on to discover!
This recipe was given to me by a friend who was born in Romagna. It makes use of a small amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) which acts as a raising agent by releasing carbon dioxide at temperatures above 80 °C, making a light, friable flatbread.
Besides cooking, baking soda has many other uses as summarized in this comprehensive article.
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- 1 teaspoon of salt (or 1 1/6 if using unsalted margarine*)
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) (salted) margarine, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 cup Squacquerone cheese (which can be substituted with Quark)
- one handful of rocket
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
- In an electric mixer using the dough blade, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the margarine and mix until evenly combined.
- Slowly add the water, mix until the dough forms a mass around the hook. Knead until smooth, 5 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Wrap the balls in saran wrap and let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Using a rolling pin, roll each ball into a thin disc, 7 inches in diameter. If you want perfectly round piadine, press a similar sized lid onto the rolled dough, then remove the excess around the edges.
- Warm up a non-stick pan on the small burner, at a medium heat. Allow 5-10 minutes for the pan to reach a stable temperature.
- Cook one piadina at a time, for about 2-3 minutes on each side. If big bubbles begin to form, flip the piadina sooner to keep the bubbles from growing. Continue cooking, flipping as necessary, until lightly browned small blisters appear on the side in contact with the heat.
- Remove the piadina from the heat and let it cool until lukewarm, then fold it in half and fill it with the cheese, rocket, and cherry tomatoes.
* Salted margarine contains 7 mg of sodium per gram, therefore 2 oz of margarine contain 400 mg of sodium, which correspond to 1/6 teaspoon of salt.
© Paolo Rigiroli