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Romagna's piadina (typical local bread)

Romagna's piadina (typical local bread)

‘La piada’, more commonly called “piadina romagnola”, is a food product representative of the traditional local cuisine. A product with ancient origins, piadina is also a modern speciality and has been adapted to change as times change. It is found only in Romagna with each zone boasting its own type of ‘piada’, with its own unique and traditional recipe. Its’ name changes from place to place with some of the different derivatives being ‘Pie’, ‘pijda’, ‘pieda’, ‘pida’.

The origin of piadina is ancient and its history can be tied to the various methods used for baking breads such as that of focacce (flat bread) and unleavened bread, used throughout the mediterranean and middle east, with that of true bread (where yeast is used to make dough, made from flour and water, rise). It was traditionally made by kneading water and ground grains, without yeast, together and cooking it on a heated slab of stone or terracotta. The first known documentation of piadina comes from a description of Romagna, compiled by Cardinale Angelico in 1371, whereby he writes that the duties owed by the city of Modigliana to the ‘Camera Apostolica’ were two “piade”.

It was Giovanni Pascoli who gave piadina its cultural place as a low-cost food eaten by the lower classes. In his various poems he wrote about the ‘bread of Enea’ and the ‘rough bread of Rome’, tying the origin of piadina to the Latin “mensa” which is found in the seventh canto of Eneide.In a note in the presentation of his short poem “La Piada”, published in “Vita Internazionale” in 1900, Giovanni Pascoli wrote,”Piada, pieda, pida, pie, si chiama dai romagnoli la spianata di grano o di granoturco o mista, che è il cibo della povera gente, e si intride senza lievito; e si cuoce in una teglia d’argilla , che si chiama testo, sopra il focolare, che si chiama aròla”. (The poem describes how piadina is made and its popularity with the people.) The roman ‘ancestery’ of piadina became a part of the cultural tradition when it was written about in the journal ‘La Pie’, started in 1920 by Aldo Spallicci. Piadina became a symbol of Romagna, synonymous with the home and the good earth.

Max David, journalist and writer, defined piadina as the most ‘romagnole’ of the products ‘romagnole’. The traditional ingredients of piadina are white flour, lard (or olive oil), ground sea salt (naturally that from Cervia), warm water with milk sometimes being added. The use of baking soda makes piadina more easily digestable and adds an enjoyable flavour.

The tradition in Cervia is to sometimes add honey to the mixture. One must be more careful when cooking this dough but the piadina is excellent and can be eaten the following day. The ingredients listed are mixed together and left to sit for about half an hour.  The thickness of piadina varies between one half and three quarters of a centimetre. A fundamental ingredient is manual ability… the sensitivity, the experience, in the past of the “azdore”, or mamma of the house, and that of every ‘piadarole’ who makes piadina today. Traditionally a good piadina is accompanied by food typical of the season, such as herbs from the vegetable garden, raw or cooked (cauliflower, stridoli – a herb collected in the surrounding pinewoods, cabbage, etc). Piadina goes well with a large variety of cold meats such as ham, salami, etc., and with different cheeses (pecorino, squaquerone, etc.).

Crescioni or cassoni

Very common throughout Romagna is the making of crescioni o cassoni, a piadina which is rolled out thinner and then filled and folded in half in the shape of a half moon. The fillings are made with different herbs and vegetables (chard, spinach, red cabbage) which can be cooked or flavoured. The types of fillings are numerous and can also have cheese added and are found in all piadina stands.

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