Written by Melissa Russo
The first time I traveled south from Bologna – firmly planted in the Emilia half of Emilia-Romagna – to my friend’s home in Rimini, a seaside town in Romagna, she told me we could stop to grab a piadina for lunch. I had never heard of piadina before, despite my time in Bologna – how could it be? We stopped at a nondescript roadside kiosk with a few plastic chairs, where a single lady flipped flat, round breads one after the other on a piping hot griddle. (Like any good American, I would be lying if I said I didn’t fall for their pancake-ness right then and there.) One bite of this hot-off-the-press flatbread filled with prosciutto crudo, squacquerone (a soft, tangy cheese), and arugula, and I knew I was hooked on piadina forever.
Piadina, or piada, is an Italian flatbread made with flour, lard or olive oil, salt, and baking soda. It’s typical of the Emilia-Romagna region and is most often served filled with cured meats, cheese, and vegetables and folded in half for a perfect handheld sandwich. In the heart of Romagna on the Adriatic coast, you’ll find piadina on the table with nearly every meal, often in place of bread.
As with most Italian recipes, even a flatbread is not just a flatbread. In fact, as you travel down the coast from Ravenna to Rimini, you’ll find that the piadina gets thinner and thinner the farther south you go. Each town boasts its preferred thickness, from the fluffy, tall piada of Ravenna – one of these will keep your belly full for hours – to the thin, wide version found at the Rimini seaside, where piada is the street food of choice – even at the beach!
As with most cucina povera traditions, this Italian staple makes use of the cast-off bits – in this case, lard – and takes all of 30 minutes to throw together.
A few notes before you get started:
- Make sure the lard and water are both at room temperature before mixing. This makes it easier to mix together, and produces a softer dough.
- When adding water to the dough, it’s better to start with small quantities and add if the dough feels too dry. Remember – you can always add, but you can’t take away!
- You’re aiming for about 100 to 120 grams of dough per serving. After you mix the dough, you can divide it into portions to have precise measurements. That said, if your pan is smaller, you can make smaller piadine!
- There are a couple of nifty piadina kitchen accessories you can snag if you’re lucky enough to visit Emilia-Romagna, but they are easy to recreate at home. The first is a teglia, or a cast-iron griddle, specifically designed with piadina in mind. It’s thinner and flatter than a cast-iron pan, and conveniently open-sided so you can really get in there with the flipping. The second is a piadina pocket—a sort of circular oven mitt that folds over with a loose latch. It keeps the piadina warm while you cook the others. You can easily swap in your favorite pan of choice (and hey, maybe even turn your cast iron skillet upside down?) and use a tea towel to keep your piadine nice and warm.
Piadina Romagnola Recipe
Makes about 3 piadina
250 grams (2 cups) 00 flour*
35 grams (2 ¾ tablespoons) lard or olive oil, room temperature
7 grams (1 ¼ teaspoons) kosher salt
1.5 grams (¼ teaspoon) baking soda
Roughly 85 grams (6 tablespoons) of water, or as much as needed, room temperature
*Double zero (00) flour is a finely milled soft wheat flour popular in Italy. You may also use all-purpose, although the texture might not be as delicate. If you want to make your piadina a little heartier, try mixing in some whole wheat flour!
To make the dough:
Dump out flour onto a clean surface. Add salt and baking soda and mix together with your hands until combined. Using your fingers, form a “volcano” or well in the middle of the flour mixture.
Add lard to the middle of the well and start to incorporate it into the flour mixture using your fingertips. Continue to combine until the dough is dry and crumbly and there are no large pieces of lard.
Once again, form a well in the flour and lard mixture. Slowly pour in water, starting with small increments. Mix together until the dough starts to come together and form a ball. If the dough feels too dry, add more water. If it starts to feel too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Knead the dough until smooth and evenly colored, about five minutes. Divide the dough into three equal portions, weighing about 120 grams each. Shape each piece into a round disc. Cover each disc in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
To roll out the piadina:
Lightly sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Unwrap a disc of dough, place it on a floured surface, and roll it out into an 8-to-9-inch circle using a rolling pin. You can roll it thicker (Ravenna-style) or thinner (Rimini-style) depending on your preference—just make sure it will fit within your pan!
Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron pan or griddle over medium to high heat. The pan should be super hot before you start cooking, so you can get those coveted seared spots that make the piadina so good! Cook each piadina on the hot griddle or pan for a little under a minute per side, just until golden in color. As it cooks, prick any bubbles that start to form with a fork or the tip of a sharp knife.
Once the piadina is done, set-aside and cover with a kitchen towel to keep warm.
If you’re not eating your piadine right away, you can also pre-cook them ahead of time and save them to eat for later. You’ll want to slightly undercook them, about 20-30 seconds per side. Let them cool, then store in a plastic bag or wrap them up in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to one week. When you’re ready to serve, reheat them on the griddle until warm.
Serve with your favorite cold cuts, cheese, and/or vegetables. The most classic piadina is served with Prosciutto di Parma, squacquerone (a soft and tangy Italian cheese), and arugula. Another beloved pairing in Romagna is squacquerone and fichi caramellati, or caramelized figs. A good substitute for squacquerone (which can be difficult to find in the U.S.!) is stracchino, ricotta, or even mozzarella.
You can also serve piadina for dessert with Nutella – or you know, right as you flip one fresh off the griddle (is there anything better?).
Piadina Romagnola Recipe
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Total time: 30 Minutes
Servings: 3 People
- 250 grams (2 cups) 00 or All-Purpose flour
- 35 grams (2 3/4 tablespoons) lard or olive oil
- 7 grams ( 1 1/4 teaspoons) kosher salt
- 1.5 grams (1/4 teaspoon) baking soda
- 85 grams (6 tablespoons) room temperature water, or as much as needed
- Prosciutto crudo
- Fresh cheese (squacquerone, mozzarella, ricotta, or other)
- Arugula, mixed lettuce, or other greens of choice
- Sliced figs, peaches, or other stone fruit