When I think of the Italian flatbread called piadina romagnola, or just piadina for short, my mind inevitably brings me back to a trip in the early 90s to the beach at Rimini. I was actually living in Paris at the time, and the sun and surf and gentle breezes along Adriatic coast were a delightful break from urban life. As an impecunious English teacher, street food was all I could afford. So when I was feeling peckish, off I’d go to a street stand just a few blocks from the beach and order a freshly made piadina filled with prosciutto, cheese and arugula. Simple and cheap, but delightful eating!
Unfortunately you can’t buy piadina outside Italy so far as I know.* But you can make it at home, and it’s quite easy to do. A simple dough, slightly leavened and enriched with lard or olive oil, gets flattened out into rounds and griddled on both sides. Then you’re ready to serve your piadina with just about any filling you fancy.
It makes a lovely light lunch or mid-afternoon snack, and—even if piadina will always be tied in my memory to a lazy summer holiday a long, long time ago—one you can whip up any time of year. The sandy beach is optional…
Makes 6-10 piadine, depending on size
- 500g (1 lb) 00 or all purpose flour
- 1 Tb salt
- 5g [1/2 tsp] baking soda
- 100g (3-1/2 oz) lard (or olive oil)
- about 250ml (1 cup) water, or as much as you need
In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt and baking soda.
Add the lard (or olive oil) and mix until the fat is well incorporated into the flour, producing something that looks a bit like pebbly sand.
Now add the water, as much as you need to form a soft but not at all sticky ball. Knead well until you have a smooth and pliable dough.
Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic wrap or a thick towel.
Divide the dough into little balls weighing anywhere between 75g (2-1/2 oz) and 140g (5 oz), pending on how large you want your piadine to be (see Notes).
Take each ball and flatten out with a rolling pin into round disks. Or, if you’re a lazy iconoclastic like me, you can use a tortilla press to do the job. And if you want perfect circles, you can trim your disks with a pastry ring. Personally, I’m fine with slightly misshapen piadine. It’s my way of saying, “I made these by hand!”
Lay your piadine out on a board, cover them with a towel and let rest them for another 15 minutes or so.
Now heat a griddle or non-stick skillet over a high flame. When it’s good and hot, lower the flame to medium and cook each piadina for about 2 minutes on each side. (Meanwhile, keep the rest under the towel so they don’t dry out.) They should be nicely spottled on both sides.
Serve slightly warm, with the fillings of your choice (see Notes).
As you will have seen, making piadina at home involves multiple steps, but all in all it’s pretty easy. The only tricky part is regulating the heat. Too high and your piadina will brown too much or even burn before they’re fully cooked on the inside. Aim for a flame that will produce light browning as pictured above after griddling two minutes or so on each side.
The traditional vessel for griddling piadina was the testo romagnolo, a flat terracotta disk that looks very much like a traditional comal for making tortilla. I guess it’s no wonder, since piadina are indeed very much in the same culinary family as flour tortillas, pita and other flatbreads. These days a cast iron griddle or non-stick skillet are more common and will do the job beautifully.
Tradition also tells us to use a rolling pin to form a piadina. But again, I find that my trusty tortilla press works just well, with a lot less work. Given the size of most tortilla presses, as mentioned above they’ll be a bit smaller than is typical, but they will be just as delicious.
Like a lot of Italian recipes, the basic ingredients for piadina romagnola stay constant but the measurements are all over the map. For instance, the amount of fat varies from recipe to recipe. Some call for as little as 50g (1-3/4 oz), others as much as 125g (4-1/2 oz) for 500g/1 lb flour. Obviously more fat means more savor (but also more calories!) And if you want that real authentic flavor, you’ll want to use lard. It gives a certain savory quality to your piadina that oil just can’t replicate. Unless you’re watching your cholesterol, of course.
You can also add more or less baking powder, or none at all, depending on how “fluffy” you like your piadina. And as to the amount of water, it’s a really a matter of quanto basta, as they say in Italian: as much as you need.
The size of a piadina can also vary quite a bit, with the smallest ones about 15cm (6 inches) in diameter and the larger ones ranging up as wide as 30cm (12 inches). Thickness varies, too, they can be as thin as 3mm (1/8 inch) and as thick as 5mm (1/4 inch). Bear this in mind as you divide up your dough into balls. They can weigh as little as 75g (for smaller, thinner rounds) or as much as 140g for “jumbo” sized piadine.
You can fill your piadina with anything you like, really. Perhaps the most classic filling would be the one I had all those years ago at Rimini: prosciutto di Parma paired with some spreadable cheese and a few arugula leaves. The cheese of choice would be squacquerone, typical of the region, but good luck finding it. Otherwise, a nice soft spreadable cheese like robiola or taleggio should do fine. (Brie is obviously not typical of the region but could also work nicely here.) Other cured meats like coppa or mortadella also make a delicious filling, as does grilled sausage. Cooked ham and mozzarella is another popular combo, stuffed into the piadina while it’s still hot so the mozzarella melts just a bit.
There are also meatless fillings: grilled veggies again with a soft cheese, for example. In summer, a caprese filling of tomato and mozzarella would be lovely. Sautéed thinly sliced zucchini, perhaps enriched with some tunafish, makes a great filling, too. Grilled fresh anchovies or sardines are also a favorite. In the the colder months, what about chicory, escarole or broccoli rabe sautéed with olive oil and garlic, with or without cheese? You could even make a sweet piadina if you like, filled with Nutella, sliced fruit, or marmellade or jam.
Need I say more? The choices are limited only by your imagination.
Making piadina ahead
You can make piadina ahead of time and warm it up when you’re ready to eat, much as you would store-bought tortillas. They’ll keep for a few days in the fridge, just make sure to wrap them so they don’t dry out. Since they’re already cooked, when time comes for reheating them, use gentle heat.
* With thanks to a reader, it turns out you can buy piadina (made with oil rather than lard) online. Haven’t tried them but it’s nice to know you can try them out if you want.
- 500g 1 lb 00 or all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 5g baking soda
- 100g 3-1/2 oz lard (or olive oil)
- 250ml 1 cup water or as much as you need
- In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt and baking soda.
- Add the lard (or olive oil) and mix until the fat is well incorporated into the flour, producing something that looks and feels a bit like pebbly sand.
- Now add the water, as much as you need to form a soft but not at all sticky ball. Knead well until you have a smooth and pliable dough.
- Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic wrap or a thick towel.
- Divide the dough into balls weighing anywhere between 75g (2-1/2 oz) and 140g (5 oz), pending on how large you want your piadine to be (see Notes).
- Take each ball and flatten out with a rolling pin or tortilla press into round disks. If you want perfect circles, you can trim the rounds with a pastry ring.
- Lay your piadine out on a board, cover them with a towel and let rest them for another 15 minutes or so.
- Now heat a griddle or non-stick skillet over a high flame. When when it's good and hot, lower the flame to medium and cook each piadina about 2 minutes on each side. (Meanwhile, keep the rest under the towel so they don't dry out.) They should be nicely spottled on both sides.
- Serve slightly warm, with the fillings of your choice.