If there is one thing that Italy is known for beyond its wines it is its food. Almost every region in the country can lay claim to a delicacy or two and Italian food has become hugely prominent, enjoying worldwide acclaim thanks to its many qualities.
But what if you explore beyond the obvious. We all know and love pizza, pasta, and all of the rest, but what about when you dig a little deeper and start exploring some lesser-known delicacies that still have the ability to astound anybody who tastes them.
That’s what we are going to do today with Piadina Romagnola. Never heard of the term? That’s not hugely surprising as this form of flatbread isn’t as well known outside of Italy as other foods. That doesn’t mean it is any less brilliant though, so let’s now take a look at what makes Piadina Romagnola so great and why we think you should start incorporating it into your diet.
So what is Piadina Romagnola? The most basic description is that it is a flat bread. Made in a disk shape, it is often filled with something to create an entirely new dish. As such, you can make the argument that it is somewhat similar to the tortilla bread used in Mexican cuisine, however, it is very Italian in origin.
Nobody can say for certain when the first Piadina Romagnola was made. A lot of places claim to be the food’s origin point and records show that there were actually a lot of similar types of food made way back during the Ancient Roman times. The Latin poet Virgilio even spoke of the practice of using a stove to create thin, disk-shaped bread in his famous work Eneide.
What is known is that the first mention of the name Piadina Romagnola appeared in the fourteenth century as part of a document created by Anglico de Grimoard. In this work he spoke about the original recipe for the break, paying particular attention to the wheat flour it uses and how to use water and salt to get the right effect. Even now, over 600 years later, those same simple ingredient are used in the recipe.
Back then and through to today, Piadina Romagnola has been a fixture in rustic kitchens, particularly in the middle and northern regions of Italy. Again, no particular region can lay claim to inventing the dish, which probably explains its widespread popularity. Further, the dish continued to grow in popularity as time went on due to its simplicity. Over time, it earned the name “poor’s bread” because of how simple it is to make, but that does the quality of the food a great disservice.
In fact, many of the lovers of Piadina Romagnola were actually quite famous. The poet Giovanni Pascoli, who was born and bred in Emilia Romagna, often spoke about the food and the joy he experienced in watching his sister, Maria, prepare the bread. We imagine that there are plenty more famous names, from both the past and present, who have similar stories, though Pascoli did try to lay claim to the bread being the national food of Romagna. How true that is can be debated, though it is the Romagna region that has lent it its name.
If you needed any further proof of the quality of Piadina Romagnola, it can be found in the fact that the food officially entered the annals of Italian culinary excellence in 2014. That is when the original recipe of the bread garnered so many positive reviews that it earned the protection of the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
Much like with the DOC and its protection of wine, the PGI ensures that the foods that fall under its label are only made with the best possible ingredients. In essence, it regulates any food that carries the Piadina Romagnola label, so buyers can always feel confident in the product that they have.
Of course, despite this, there are many who prefer to make their own versions of Piadina Romagnola in the home, which is one of the many reasons why its popularity has endured and the dish has gathered such a strong reputation.
How It’s Made
The PGI specifies that Piadina Romagnola should use the basic ingredients of water, wheat flour, fats, lards, salt, and olive oil. Producers may not add any preservatives or flavourings, though common leaving agents that do not alter the composition of the bread are allowed.
The ingredients are combined and mesh with water until a compact dough is formed. This dough is divided into many small balls, with larger balls naturally creating larger disks.
A rolling pin or mechanical roller is used to press the balls into disks and the dough is baked for four minutes on a hotplate set between 200 and 250 degrees Celsius. The chef will turn the dough after two minutes.
Once cooked, the Piadina Romagnolan is left to cool down, after which it will be stored in bags and often placed in the fridge for later use, unless the chef hopes to enjoy the food while it’s still warm.
The Best Wine Combinations
As with any Italian food, you need to combine Piadina Romagnola with wine for the best effect. However, the added complication here is that Piadina Romagnola often comes with a filling.
When eating the bread alone, a light wine is preferable. Anything too complex will overpower the basic flavours and leave Piadina Romagnola without any of the qualities that so many people love about it.
When filled, you should choose your wine based on the filling. Fish and cheeses naturally call upon a white wine that complements them, but it is when richer foods are used as the filling that you can start having some real fun.
When filled with beef or other rich meats, you can combine Piadina Romagnola with almost anything. However, as a general tip you should aim to avoid anything with too strong a body, else the wine will still overpower the bread.