piadina food Italian Italy Emilia bread salad plate tradition

Author: Kobako – Attribution License

The flatbread from Romagna of ancient origins, the ‘piadina‘ or ‘piada‘, was already appreciated by the Romans and still today is made in the same exact way. The simple and irresistible recipe appeared for the first time in Cato the Elder’s book ‘Liber de Agricoltura‘ in 160 BC. It was the staple food of the poor because it is made with few easily available ingredients (flour, olive oil, salt, and water) and easy to pack for the long days of work. Moreover, it is quick to make, as it is traditionally cooked placing the dough on a very hot terracotta dish called ‘testo‘ or ‘teggia‘. The thin, crisp and round result has the scorched bread flavor and is served as a wrap with all sorts of different fillings. 

Curiously the piadina in the fourteenth century was considered something so delicious that it was part of the tributes that had to be offered each year to the Apostolic Chamber. It has even inspired great poets such as Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912), emblematic figure of Italian literature in the late nineteenth century, who turned the recipe of the unleavened bread into verses in his ‘Nuovi Poemetti’. However, the recipe of Pellegrino Artusi, best known as the author of the iconic cookbook ‘La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene’ (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well), contemplates yeast. About this aspect today there are two different schools of thought, and towards the coast, the piadinas are thinner and puffier than the thicker, softer ones made inland. But they are both mouth-watering when filled with ham, salami, squacquarone, mortadella or vegetables. The Piadina’s worldwide success has been such that the most bizarre versions have emerged.

Milko Vaccaro

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