Since Tifosi won’t be attending F1’s Italian Grand Prix at Imola, we’ll settle for imagining a picnic at the track, with a lunch of Piadina Romagnola and a refreshing bottle of Lambrusco while watching the race from our living room floor instead. (Jump to recipe).
Piadina, or Piada is a rustic flatbread with a long history in Emilia-Romagna. A staple of the region’s farming communities, it’s an easy quickbread made at home from flour, salt and water, and enriched with lard. Farmers would cook piadina on terracotta slabs over hot coals1 and fill them with garden herbs, sauteed greens, and/ or local cured meats and cheeses drizzled with sapa.2,3
The earliest and most basic recipe we tested came from La Cucina, the Regional Cooking of Italy, a collection of traditional Italian recipes compiled by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in the 1950’s. This recipe contained no leavening agent, relying instead on a high ratio of fat for tenderness. It made a rich, dense and sturdy piadina, even when rolled very thin, that had to be eaten fresh and hot. Italian “00” flour produced the best result, which was tender and chewy, but AP flour made them tough, and gluten free flour made them grainy and rubbery.
Now that piadina are served in cafés and kiosks all over Italy4, I can see why modern recipes contain less fat and some form of chemical leavening. Some recipes call for a pinch of baking soda, producing a firm yet flaky piadina, but more recent recipes commonly include baking powder. These tested extremely well using all-purpose flour, making a soft fluffy piadina with a texture and flavor somewhere between Mexican flour tortillas and yeasted Middle Eastern flatbreads. I also found baking powder helped stabilize the piadina, keeping it fresh and delicious even after sitting at room temperature for several hours.
So, four pounds of flour and a half pound of duck fat later, we arrived at a recipe suitable for our imaginary picnic lunch. Lard is traditional but I always have duck fat in my freezer and it works just as well. You could also substitute beef tallow, shortening, coconut oil, or olive oil. I also replace a portion of water with milk for both flavor and browning, and finally, I use baking powder because we want our piadina to taste just as good out of the picnic basket as they did fresh off the griddle.
A quick and easy flatbread great for Sunday brunch, antipasti, or brown bagging your lunch.
Yield: (6) 8″ rounds
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total: 60 minutes
2 1/4 cups (315 g) all purpose flour
1 tsp. (3 g) kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 oz. (45 g) lard or other rendered fat
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) hot water
- In a large bowl or work surface, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. Make a well in the center of the ingredients and sprinkle the fat or oil in the center.
- In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the milk and hot water. Pour half the warm milk mixture into the well, melting the fat.
- Gather the flour into the liquid, mixing and adding just enough of the remaining liquid to bring all the ingredients together.
- Knead briefly until the dough is soft and smooth. Cover or wrap the dough and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll them into flatbread discs 8” diameter and 1/16” thick.
- Heat a cast iron griddle to medium-high heat. The griddle should be just hot enough so the flatbread cook quickly without burning, but not too cool or they will dry out.
- Place a flatbread on the griddle and cook for about 10 seconds until it begins to brown on the bottom and bubble on the top, prick the flatbread all over the top with a fork bursting any bubbles, and flip the flatbread over.
- Cook until just lightly scorched on both sides and steaming hot in the middle, but still tender. These piadina are best served fresh, but can be kept loosely wrapped in a tea towel for several hours.
1Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1992), p. 1529
2Bolis Edizioni – Azzano San Paolo, La Cucina, The Regional Cooking of Italy (Rizzoli Publications, 2009), p. 57
3Sapa is a sweet reduction of grape must, also called saba, vin cotto, or mosto cotto.https://www.finecooking.com/ingredient/saba
Sam Tanenhaus, “Emilia-Romagna,” from Savoring Italy (HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 1992), p. 128