The Emilia Romagna region is known for some of the finest dishes anywhere in Italy. This week we present two of the most evocative recipes. One is the street food that has been a favorite in Rimini for at least 2,000 years and the second is the pasta of the province. One of the most popular pastas is tagliatelle, but in the province of Rimini, it is tagliolini that is most popular. The difference is in the taglia – the cut.
Although the names are similar and both are traditionally egg pasta cut into ribbons, tagliolini are long strands of pasta somewhere between the width of capellini and tagliatelle. Each strand is usually roughly 1/8 of an inch wide before cooking and is less ribbon shaped than tagliatelle. They are also often twisted together and bought as a pasta nest. This was originally eaten primarily in soups but today it is often served in a light sauce with seafood, which should come as no surprise, given Rimini’s location along the Adriatic coast.
To get the vibrant yellow color of the pasta, it is necessary to make it in small batches. The brighter the yellow color of the yolks, the brighter the yellow of the pasta. Once prepared, the dough in this recipe will be glossy and dries very quickly. Since this is a recipe where freshness is the key, always cook homemade pasta quickly; it cooks much quicker that dry store bought pasta.
For the Pasta
2 cup all-purpose flour
2 whole egg
6 egg yolks
a pinch of salt
For the sauce
1 lb mussels
1 lb clams
12 extra-large shrimp
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 glass of dry white wine
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley
For the pasta, place the flour on a smooth clean surface and make a well large enough for the eggs and yolks. Add the eggs and yolks, along with a heavy pinch of salt. With a fork, gently whisk the eggs, slowly beginning to incorporate flour from the sides of the well. When the mixture in the well is thick and pasty, fold in the remaining flour and begin to knead it into a ball.
Knead the dough for about 15 minutes. It seems like a lot, but this is a very dry dough and it needs to be mixed well. When the dough is very uniform, very smooth and very glossy, put it in plastic wrap and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Next, set up your pasta roller. Cut your ball of dough into two pieces. Run each piece through the machine on the widest setting. Fold each into thirds and run through on the widest setting again. Repeat this process three times. Continue running the dough through the machine, one time at each additional notch. You will want the pasta to be thin, to the point where they are just becoming transparent. Lay the pasta sheets out on towels. If your sheets are very long, cut them in half. When the sheets are no longer tacky, but still quite pliable, take one sheet at a time and fold them gently in half and in half again and again, until you are working with a roll about 3″ wide. Cut along the roll, spacing each cut about 1/8″ apart. Shake the noodles apart and return them to your towel to dry a bit more.
Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Next, clean and wash all the shellfish thoroughly. Remove the shrimp from the shells and de-vein. Crush the garlic cloves with the flat blade of a knife and discard the paper.
When the pasta water comes to a rolling boil, salt the water well and heat up a skillet over a medium flame. Add the butter, olive oil, red pepper flakes and garlic cloves. Sauté the garlic until slightly browned. Add the clams and mussels into the skillet and quickly toss around with the spatula. Add the wine and shrimp. Cover the skillet and let cook for 1 minute or until the clams and mussels are all open. NOTE: discard any that do not open.
When the pasta floats to the surface, it is ready. Drain and transfer to the sauté pan with the seafood. Add the lemon juice and parsley, stir to combine well. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
The piada or piadina is the street food of Rimini. Perfect for a quick bite on the go, especially while on vacation, it actually pre-dates Rimini’s history as a vacation destination by many centuries. It is deceptively simple fare, but it become a delicious meal when made properly and filled with local ingredients. It is so popular that in the Romagnolo dialect they have an expression: ‘La pida se parsòt la pis un po’ ma tôt,’ which translates as “everybody likes the piada with a bit of ham.”
Centuries ago, the poor in Rimini were called mangiapiada because the bread was easy and cheap to make. The piada‘s origins are far from certain. It dates back at least to Roman times, but is thought by many to have originated with the Etruscans.
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 stick butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tsp lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper
6 oz Fontina cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh basil
Combine the flour, baking soda and 1 teaspoon of salt in the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes. With the machine running, slowly add 10 to 12 tablespoons water until the mixture forms a dough around the hook. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form into disk shapes and put in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Place a grill pan over a medium-high flame. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece of dough into an 8 to 10-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Brush each circle with the extra-virgin olive oil and grill for 4 minutes on each side. Remove the piadina from the grill to cool slightly. Combine the ricotta cheese and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread each piadina with 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the Fontina cheese evenly over the ricotta cheese. Arrange 2 prosciutto slices on top of the cheeses. Cut each piadina into 8 wedges and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the chopped basil and enjoy!