The humble piadina is a round, rustic, tortilla-like flatbread that is much-loved all over Italy. Although she doesn't give a recipe for it, Carol Field, in her fabulous cookbook The Italian Baker, calls it an ancestral flatbread and cites it as the predecessor of the focaccia and pizza we eat today.
It's best to eat a piadina right after it's made (some say no more than three minutes after it has come off the hot plate)—good thing that they're a cinch to make at home in almost no time.
Small balls of dough are rolled out thinly (less than a millimeter by the coast of Rimini and ranging up to to 5 millimeters further inland) and then cooked quickly, just a few minutes each side, at most, so they are still pliable. You'll use a fork to poke at the bubbles that appear while cooking and a long knife to flip the piadina over. These are the essential, simple instruments used to make this beloved peasant and street food.
This recipe is based on the guidelines set out by the "official" recipe of the real piadina romagnola for I.G.P. (Protected Geographical Indication) status. —Emiko
(250 grams) flour
(30 grams) olive oil
water (or as much as needed)
Fillings of your choice: prosciutto, fontina, Stracchino, arugula, Nutella, etc. (optional)
Combine the flour, olive oil and salt in a bowl. Mix a little by hand until you have an evenly crumbly mixture, then begin to pour in the water, little by little, until you have a soft, pliable dough that's not sticky or dry. You may not need all of the water or you may need a touch more, so this is good to do by hand rather than with a mixer so you can feel the progress of the dough (plus, it only takes a few minutes). Leave the ball of dough to rest for 30 minutes under a tea towel or wrapped in plastic wrap. When ready, it should be as elastic, soft, and smooth.
Cut into 4 even portions (about 85 to 100 grams or 3 to 3 1/2 ounces each). Roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 2 millimeters thick (or up to 3 millimeters or 1/10 inch) and roughly 25 centimeters (10 inches) wide.
Heat a flat nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat and when hot, cook one piadina at a time, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Poke the bubbles with a fork to let the air escape, and then flip over. You want the piadine to be cooked but still very pliable and neither dry nor crunchy (you should be able to fold these without them breaking).
Transfer the cooked piadine to a plate and then fill them with your chosen fillings (classic examples are prosciutto and fontina; Stracchino cheese and arugula; Nutella), fold in half, then heat again on a hot skillet until the fillings are warm. Serve immediately.
Note: Although the piadine are best filled and eaten right away, you can make these ahead of time. Once they have cooled down to room temperature, keep them stored in an airtight container or well covered in plastic wrap. Eat them within a couple days (but like any bread, they are best when eaten fresh!).
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.