«The bread, indeed the national food of the people of Romagna»
The Piadina Romagnola Bread, or Piada, of which Piadina was originally the diminutive, is a food product composed of a sheet of wheat flour, lard or olive oil, bicarbonate or yeast, salt, and water, which was traditionally cooked on a terracotta plate, called “teglia” (teggia in the Romagna dialect), on metal plates, or on refractory stone slabs called texts (tëst in dialect).
But what exactly does Piadina mean? The term Piada (locally piê, pièda, pìda) probably derives from the Greek “pláthanon” long dish, pan, arriving on the Italian peninsula through the Byzantine Kingdom.
Mentioned by the Italian poets Giovanni Pascoli and Marino Moretti as typical Romagna food, “La Piadina” has been the protagonist of the songs of the famous singer-songwriter Raoul Casadei and has been for centuries one of the pillars of the Romagna gastronomic culture.
Back to the origins of Piadina
Described as an “unleavened bread” baked on red-hot plates as far back as 1200 BC, were probably the Etruscans to teach the Italian local populations how to cook cereals, influencing even the first Roman gastronomy.
In the fourth century BC, when the cultivation of wheat replaced the other cereals and the first leavened bread appeared, the preparation of focaccia and Piade was strongly reduced, but nevertheless the preparation of unleavened Piade remained one of the foods preferred by the Romans, remaining a fundamental element both of the banquets of the wealthier and of religious ceremonies, as well as great food that you can keep while traveling.
With the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Barbarian Invasions, many of the eating habits of the people of the peninsula were changed without being completely upset. The cultivation of cereals was, in fact, a fundamental element of the agricultural production of large masses of people as well as the production of bread.
Thus it was that in the years of the plague, around the year 1300, the peasant class no longer had the economic chance of eating leavened bread and returned to the consumption of polenta, barley flours, and unleavened cakes produced with a mixture of cereals less valuable, with dried legumes and acorns.
The first known historical document that speaks of the “Piada” dates back to 1371; the term was in fact found within the description of Romagna compiled by Cardinal Angelico, in which among the tributes that the city of Modigliana had to pay to the Apostolic Chamber were 2 “Piade”.
The arrival of the Renaissance saw the flowering of the courts, the Lordships, and the culinary art necessary to cheer the palates of the great noble banquets. This was the time in which were formed the great cooks like that Christopher of Messisbugo who will make the cuisine of the Este Family in Ferrara famous and which, combined with the spread of wheat cultivation and leavening of bread, will for centuries relegate the preparation of Piada to the moments of famine and to the poorer social classes.
It was at the beginning of the 20th century that Piada had a great revival thanks above all to the cornflour which, mixed with soft wheat flour, allowed to obtain excellent results at low cost.
The girls already at the age of five or six learned to pull the dough and cook the fragrant Piadine in the text, stuffing them with the traditional homemade salami, the grilled sausage, the boiled cabbage seasoned with oil, garlic, and rosemary.
Having become a popular food, Piadina, along with other Romagna specialties, began to conquer even the tourists who arrived in Romagna in the 40s and 50s and the first kiosks began to appear along the roads that led to the sea and to the seaside villages.
This was the period in which Piada became renowned throughout Italy, being definitively identified with the land of Romagna and with the holidays times.
Piadina In Our Time
Given its widespread diffusion and production, there are few families in Romagna who still prepare the Piada at home according to the traditional recipe.
Nevertheless, on the roads of Romagna, it is very easy to still find artisan kiosks where the Piadina is prepared and spread by hand as in the past and many locals prefer to buy it in these places and then stuff it at home.
Furthermore, depending on the area where you will be staying, you will be served a thicker Piadina (Northern Romagna) or thinner (Rimini) and the ingredients proposed for the filling may be slightly different.
Given its character of simple, fast and popular food, Piadina is today one of the most used and appreciated foods of Romagna and the mere utterance of its name brings to mind the images of the beaches of Rimini and the summer evenings spent by the sea.
But Piada, because of its being food that must be composed, has increasingly entered the ‘starred kitchen’ of the great chefs who, over time, have proposed unusual and different combinations, even if always starting from the products of Romagna gastronomy and local.
In short, an easy and millenary preparation, made from simple and popular ingredients, which over the centuries has been able to conquer everyone and which thanks to its versatility and goodness has now become one of the most famous and appreciated Romagna foods in the world.
The Recipe of Piadina
Ingredients (Makes 5 Piadine)
- 500 g of flour type
- 0, 70 g of high-quality lard, such as Mora di Romagna
- 2 pinches of baking soda (3 g about) or 10 g of powdered yeast for salted cakes
- 8 g of salt such as Sweet Salt of Cervia
- water as needed.
Pour the flour onto a pastry board, and put pieces of lard in the center, as well as the baking soda or yeast and the salt. Knead everything together with warm water until the dough is evenly mixed and elastic.
Divide the dough into 150 gram balls and roll them out with a rolling pin to form nice large circles. The thickness is up to you: usually, it is about 6-8mm near Forlì and Ravenna while near Rimini it is very thin (2-3mm).
It is highly recommended that the Piadina be cooked quickly on a very hot griddle, or similar surface, spinning them clockwise with a fork in order to not burn them, and this way also the little bubbles that form can be burst. They should be turned over when they are golden brown.
The Piada can be made, besides water, also with milk. The lard can be substituted with extra virgin olive oil.
Sangiovese di Romagna DOC
Explorer and Adventurer: loves sailing the oceans, climbing the highest mountains and surfing on the waves of the web
You may also like
Interested in our newsletter?
Every first of the month, an email (in Italian) with selected contents and upcoming events.