There are probably as many takes on flatbread as there are cuisines in the world. I can think of at least a dozen in Italy alone, from that most famous of famous renditions, pizza, which originated in Naples, to the crisp, paper-thin cracker bread known as carta da musica (“music paper”) from Sardinia.
In Le Marche, the region just north of Abruzzo, where my family is from, there is the piadina, a savory flatbread filled with all sorts of goodies such as tomatoes, greens, peppers and sausages.
Some weeks ago I had a simple but memorable piadina at Fiola, Fabio Trabocchi’s new restaurant in Penn Quarter. Trabocchi is from Le Marche, so he knows his piadina. The flatbread was light and crisp and tender, just barely charred. The filling was my personal favorite combination for any sandwich, really: buttery prosciutto, spicy arugula and fresh, milky buffalo mozzarella.
I asked the chef’s wife, Maria, whether he might be willing to share the recipe, and she promptly e-mailed it to me. Turns out I already had it, because it’s in Trabocchi’s 2006 cookbook, “Cucina of Le Marche,” which was sitting right on my cookbook shelf.
The dough recipe calls for baking powder rather than yeast, and for whole milk in place of water. It also uses a soft lard known as manteca. I decided to take a small risk and use softened butter instead. It made for a soft dough, but one that rolled out nicely. And when it came time to cook the piadine, in a grill pan on the stovetop, it turned out picture-perfect and deliciously crisp-tender.
I will warn you that this recipe takes time. The dough needs to rest for a few hours, then it has to be divided and rolled into eight piadine, which are cooked, stuffed and heated briefly in the oven.
They are worth the effort, though, and this is a good hands-on recipe to make with kids. They can help knead and roll out the dough, as well as cook and stuff the flatbreads. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can put out an array of fillings for folks to choose from: leftover grilled sausage, pepperoni or salami, roasted peppers, grilled eggplant and any number of good melting cheeses. Some of my favorites are fontina, asiago fresco and smoked mozzarella.
Serve the piadine with a simple summer tomato salad, a crunchy mixed green salad, or even alongside a bowl of cream of tomato soup.
To drink: a refreshing sparkling wine such as prosecco or cava.
The recipe is after the jump.
Got a favorite Family Dish to share? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Italian “00” flour is a soft, white flour that is highly refined.
MAKE AHEAD: The dough needs to rest twice, for a total of 3 1/2 hours.
Adapted from “Cucina of Le Marche,” by Fabio Trabocchi with Peter Kaminsky (Ecco, 2006).
For the dough
1/2 cup whole milk
4 cups Italian 00 flour or all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface (see headnote)
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
For the filling
3 cups arugula, tough stems removed (2 ounces)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, at room temperature
1 pound fresh whole-milk mozzarella, cut into thin slices, at room temperature
For the dough: Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat just until warm (about 105 degrees).
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add the butter, water, milk and salt. Beat on low speed for about 10 minutes, until the dough is thoroughly mixed and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place on a plate. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 3 hours at room temperature.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each one into a ball and place the balls on the plate. Cover again with the kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Dust the work surface with a little flour. Working with one ball of dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll each one into a disk about 10 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Place on a piece of parchment or waxed paper; stack the disks between paper as you go.
Place a large nonstick skillet or seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once it is hot (after 1 to 2 minutes), carefully peel a disk of dough from the paper and place it in the skillet (the dough is quite delicate so use a gentle touch). Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the flatbread is slightly golden yet still soft, with some lightly charred spots. Use a spatula to turn over the disk; cook for 3 minutes, to achieve the same results on the second side. Transfer the piadina to a plate; repeat with the remaining disks, stacking them (no paper needed this time) as you go.
For the filling: Toss the arugula with the oil until evenly coated. Divide the prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula so you have 8 equal portions of each.
Working with one piadina at a time, place it on a cutting board and cover the surface with the prosciutto, then the mozzarella the and the arugula. Fold the piadina over the filling to create a half-moon shape and place on a baking sheet. Fill the remaining piadine and divide between the baking sheets.
Bake one sheet at a time for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mozzarella is warmed through and just beginning to melt.
Cut each piadina into wedges and serve.