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The piadina – the Italian version of the flour tortilla, or a kind of simple flatbread – is both a street food and a comfort food; a midday snack or a late-night meal with friends. It’s also the signature dish from the Adriatic Riviera. Everyone staunchly defends their own recipe, but some things are never questioned: the main ingredients are type 0 flour, pork lard (although butter can also be used), tepid water and Cervia salt. But the most important factor in making a perfect piadina? Elbow grease.
Like pizza, pulling out the dough into the perfect shape and thickness requires a deft and expert technique. Purists will claim that a piadina should be cooked on clay from Montetiff, a village near the town of Forlì, and then scorched in a wood-burning oven, but many who make them at home manage to do so with a non-stick pan. Once that the cooking surface is heated, and the piadina is ready, the rest is up to you and your imagination.
The piadina is perfect with either sweet or savory fillings: charcuterie and cheeses; jams, chocolate or hazelnut spread – whatever you might put into a crepe is fit to fill a piadina. One of the most popular and best-selling combinations is prosciutto crudo, rocket and squacquerone – a soft, spreadable cow’s milk cheese with an unmistakable tart flavor.
On the waterfront in Rimini La Casina del Bosco has been making piadina since 1995, always using the same recipe. “Since people often get scared off with the mention of lard – even though we use such a tiny amount”, says Adele, who has been working there since she was a girl, “we also offer a version made with spelt and olive oil.” Some of their most popular fillings are: herbs, sausage and mozzarella; or San Marino ham, pecorino and pear mostarda. During the summer months, a best-seller is radicchio, spring onions and sardines.
Another popular piadina spot in Rimini, Ilde is also known as “the little café with the great piadina” and has been making them since 1958. While they offer more than 100 variations, the owner’s personal favorite is called the “McIlde” and comes with sausage, sautéed onion, lettuce, tomato and ketchup. “The piadina used to be a poor man’s food – you ate it because it was filling and there was never any ham, maybe just a bit of lard or some herbs. But now it’s a real meal,” says Maria Gabriella Magnani, the owner of two famous piadina spots . She boasts that her ingredients and techniques are faithful to the dish’s origins: no powdered yeasts, and everything is done by hand. “ Dallalella” is also famous for her “sfogliata”, an ancient version of the piadina, which requires much more time to make, as well as more lard – it gets overlapped and pressed down into multiple layers. “The sfoglia is the queen of piadine”, says Gabriella. “And more than a few famous chefs have come here to learn how to make it.” Here, they make ten different kinds of dough using stone ground, organic flour as well as versions with Kamut or rosemary. One of the must-haves here is the kind made with caramelized figs. “My brother Chicco learned to make piadine here in Romagna and then he went to New York and opened a restaurant called Piadina, Vino e Cucina. New Yorkers are crazy for his piadine because all of the ingredients come from here.”
Quick homemade flatbread
Ingredients for 4 wraps: 500 g flour 200 g of water 1 pinch of salt 1 tablespoon lard or oil 1 pinch of baking soda.
Procedure: Mix all ingredients until mixture is smooth and uniform, a ball and cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll out of helping discs with a sprinkling of flour. Let rest 5 minutes while a pan heated by the lower edges. Cook on it wraps your prick the surface with a fork. Stir once a golden base and filled to your liking. Close to half moon and serve.