Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Erbazzone pie (swiss chard pie). A treasure recipe from Emilia

Erbazzone Reggiano (swiss chard pie). A treasure recipe from Emilia

There is a land with indefinite borders, which is the South of the North and the North of the South: someone calls it Emilia (E. Berselli, Italian writer born and raised in Emilia)

The city of Reggio Emilia is the birthplace of one of the most satisfying Italian snacks: erbazzone or scarpazzone, a hearty, savory pie packed with tender greens.

Once a staple of Po river-side snacks, erbazzone pie was an appetizer and a main course, often accompanied by the local wines Lambrusco and Fogarina. The latter, a native vine, produced a dark, sour wine now experiencing a well-deserved revival.

From mountain to plain, a history of the great river (the Po)

Some people call it erbazzone, while others call it scarpazzone (from scarpa, that means shoe but in this case has a different meaning).

What is the difference? The two terms indicate the same preparation: erbazzone pie refers to the green herbs in the filling, which at one time were Swiss chard, spinach but also radicchio and other field herbs; scarpazzone indicates the white stem of the chard, called scarpa, which peasant families did not waste and used in the filling.

Thanks to the stuffing, we know that erbazzone was typical from May to November when chard or other herbs were available.

It is a homemade preparation originating in the countryside.
It was a breakfast or dinner dish accompanied by radicchio or other wild herbs and hard-boiled eggs.

The rezdora (housewife) would enrich the pastry with flour, water, and a little lard. The latter is the ingredient that makes the shell as crumbly as shortcrust pastry. Men carried that one dish of substance in their saddlebags to face the toil of working in the fields.

The area of Reggio Emilia is quite large, and it develops from the Apennines to the Po River.
Many variations of this dish exist inside that area, such as the mountain version with rice. That recipe dates back to long ago when the rice was brought home by the women who worked as rice keepers (mondine in Italian) from March to October to clear the rice fields of weeds. To their modest pay, the landowners would add a bag of rice, which the women would cook in milk until it was completely absorbed and then mix with whatever was available: chard or other herbs certainly, but also lard, Parmigiano, ricotta, and even eggs.





The origin of erbazzone pie

An herb and cheese pie enclosed in two layers of unleavened bread dough is also mentioned in the country poem Moretum, written by Virgil. Although it is well known that the ancient Romans enjoyed herb pies, erbazzone, as we know it today, has ancient but more recent origins.

The recipe almost certainly has nineteenth-century origins and originated in the home kitchen of a rezdora, as the women of the house were called in Reggio Emilia and throughout Emilia. The rezdora supervised people and things, governed the kitchen and the vegetable garden, arranged the daily to-do, and knew how to use everything the countryside put at her disposal.

From recipe to recipe, from family to family, erbazzone is, together with cappelletti, the flagship of Reggio Emilia cuisine and one of the dishes of the traditional cucina povera of Emilia-Romagna.

My first bite of erbazzone pie

This story will make you smile.

I first tasted erbazzone pie at a monastery in Bertinoro, a charming village on the Romagna hills above Forlì, famous for piadina and Sangiovese wine (two typical Romagna foods).

At that time, the convent was a guesthouse where I stayed and attended master’s courses with other students.
Among them was Alessandra, who, on Sunday evenings, would return from Reggio Emilia with the still-warm erbazzone pie that her grandmother had prepared. For many months, it was our regular meeting; sitting on the bed in her room, we would share chats and bites of erbazzone. The tastiest I have ever eaten.

This one I leave you with is a special recipe.

Emilia and Romagna
  • The Emilia recipe for erbazzone is very similar to that of the Romagna green flatbread (crescioni).
    They share almost the same filling, chard and cheese, and the dough since the piadina has the same ingredients as the erbazzone dough: flour, water, and lard (olive oil is a recent introduction).
  • On the blog, you can read the interesting history of piadina romagnola and find the recipe for the leavened Bertinoro version.
Keep in Touch

Erbazzone Reggiano (swiss chard pie). A treasure recipe from Emilia

Erbazzone Reggiano (swiss chard pie). A treasure recipe from Emilia


Erbazzone pie (swiss chard pie)

Erbazzone pie is a culinary gem hailing from Reggio Emilia and the cucina povera of Emilia-Romagna, making it a must-try for any Italian cuisine enthusiast.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Emilia-Romagna
Keyword Erbazzone pie, Swiss chard pie
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 1 rectangular mold 30x25cm



  • 1,5 kg of Swiss chard or spinach
  • olive oil to grease the pan
  • 100 g of spring onion or leek or onion
  • 5 g of parsley
  • 150 g of sweet bacon (pancetta) or lardo di Colonnata
  • 100 g of grated Parmigiano
  • 1 clove of garlic even if I don't use it
  • salt and olive oil to taste


  • 300 g of 00 flour
  • 3 g of salt
  • 30 g of lard or 50 g butter or olive oil
  • 200 ml of lukewarm water



  • Rinse and boil the chard in unsalted boiling water for about 10 minutes (if using a frozen product, cook it directly in water without defrosting). Drain, run under cold water, and squeeze with your hands to dry them. Then, roughly chop and keep aside.
  • Chop the pancetta or lardo di Colonnata, the parsley, and the spring onion separately with a knife. Set aside 50 g of pancetta.
  • Sauté the chopped parsley and spring onion gently for a few minutes in a pan with a bit of olive oil before adding 100 g of pancetta (if using garlic, warm the oil with one clove and remove it from the pan before adding parsley and spring onion).
  • Add herbs as well, allow to flavor for a few minutes while stirring, remove from heat, let cool, then incorporate Parmigiano, adjust salt, and mix well.


  • Place the flour on a cutting board, make a well in the center, sprinkle the salt on the edges, and arrange the lard into the well. 
  • Pour in a little warm water and start kneading, adding all the water a little at a time until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Let the dough rest for 30 minutes under a bowl at room temperature.
  • Roll out the dough with a small rolling pin. When it expands, slide the rolling pin from the center outward. Turn the dough 45 degrees every two to three strokes of the rolling pin. When it is wide and thin enough, gently pull it with your hands to stretch it further and make it thin (about 3 mm). This dough is quite elastic, so don't be afraid to break it, and if it does, close the hole by matching the dough flaps together.

Erbazzone assembling

  • Preheat oven to 180C degrees (356F).
  • Arrange the base in a baking pan lined with baking paper. The edges have to stick out of the mold. Spread the filling evenly to a height of 1 to 2 cm.
  • Cover the filling with the excess dough, creating folds. Enlarge the dough with your hands to cover the filling completely. Prick the surface with the tines of a fork. Brush with olive oil and spread chopped lardo di Colonnata/pancetta or a few flakes of lard over the surface.


  • If, after adding the Parmigiano, the filling seems too watery, add a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs.

Leave a comment

© 2024 Tortellini&Co. All Rights Reserved.