Green flatbread is a specialty from Romagna.
In Italy, are called cassoni, or crescioni (literally watercress) romagnoli.
They are stuffed piadine and folded into a crescent moon.
I call them crescioni not cassoni and it depends on what part of Romagna you are born in.
Traditionally, crescione is stuffed with herbs, and in the Apennine areas, even with pumpkin and potatoes. Here the shape also changes. In the village on the Forlì’s hills, they are rectangular.
The variety of fillings is recent: tomato and mozzarella, potatoes and sausage, and all you can think inside it did not exist until the sixties-seventies.
Crescione from Romagna takes its name to the herb, watercress, traditionally used to stuff it. Today watercress is not easy to find, and you can replace it with chard or spinach.
Green flatbread still has a flavor that remembers my childhood.
My auntie Iolanda
Iolanda, called Iole, was my grandmother Sara’s younger sister.
She adored her older sister, and having only male grandchildren since I was little, she called me her special girl.
Unlike my grandmother, who was petite, my aunt was tall and robust. Her smile lighted a face glowing with goodness, and, thankfully, she smiled often.
Grandma was a superb cook, and her sister was her helper.
But Iolanda also had her signature dishes.
Unfortunately, my nonna, due to her illness, soon stopped making pasta dough.
I still remember aunt Iole’s fragrant sfoglia, fried polenta with squacquerone (a typical soft cheese of Romagna), and flatbread with green.
Crescioni alle erbe (green flatbread)
In summer, aunt made the piadina and cooked the crescioni early in the morning.
In winter, she made them late in the afternoon, in time to be eaten warm for dinner.
And in every season, a part of them ended up in the stock of the chest freezer.
Auntie used to make preparation and cooking in the home basement.
She used to roll out the dough on the large wooden table, the silent witness of many winter dinners and improvised summer ones.
And she used to cook the flatbread with green on the old gas stove placed right next to the fireplace.
What a beautiful memory. The meat cooks on the grill on the fireplace and the piadina on the stove next to it.
I see my aunt again, starting with the piadina dough, which it then has to rest.
In the meantime, she starts to cook the herbs, already blanched and squeezed.
She sizzles them in a large pan with olive oil and salt. Sometimes he also adds finely chopped bacon and onion.
After a few minutes, turn off the heat and let the herbs cool before adding ricotta and a few tablespoons of grated Parmigiano. Stir and return to the piadina.
I lean a chair against the table, climb in and stand spellbound to observe her gestures.
How did I ignore that magic for so many years? I don’t know, but maybe you have to be ready for the calls.
The dough rests under a clean tea towel, already divided into many balls of equal weight.
She used to do this by eye. I suggest weighing each piece of dough.
She rolls out each piadina into a perfect oval. I am not capable of such perfection.
She spreads the filling with a fork on half of the piadina. Folds the dough over to cover the filling, runs a finger around the edge, and then seals it with the fork.
When she has stuffed all the crescioni, she cooks two green flatbreads at a time on the already hot iron pan.
A few minutes on each side, not forgetting to set them straight to cook the narrow, long side.
As I said at the beginning, crescioni are crescent-shaped, but they can also be rectangular. If you don’t have much experience, this is the shape I recommend because it’s easier to make.
There was a ritual. Just cooked, we ate one while it was still warm. It was a fragrant privilege, but I was my auntie’s special girl.
Buona cucina, Monica
Cook with me
On the blog, you will find the history of piadina romagnola (which has the same dough as crescioni). And the recipe (HERE) for the leavened piadina called “Bertinoro”, which is distinct from that of Rimini, wide and thin. Bertinoro is a little village close to Forlì.
The arrival of the chest freezer represented an almost epochal turning point for those born in the countryside. HERE you will find the story of its arrival at home.
The memory of winter dinners in the home’s basement made me think of the cookies of San Martino and the feast of the “becchi” (cuckolds). HERE you will find the recipe and story.
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Green flatbread recipe (Crescioni romagnoli alle erbe)
List of the Ingredients
all-purpose flour, 500g
80g lard or 60g olive oil
instant brewer’s yeast 1g, or baking soda 2g
lukewarm water, about 300-350ml (depending on how much water the flour absorbs)
optional: you can replace part of the water with milk
Note: I use less yeast than I usually put in the piadina recipe
400g about spinach, the vegetable is already boiled and squeezed
200g of cow ricotta cheese
20 g of grated Parmigiano
olive oil and salt to taste
To make the dough, place the flour in a mound on your work surface, scatter over the salt and bicarbonate of soda or yeast, then make a small well in the center.
Pour lard or olive oil, salt, and water into the well. Work the mixture into the flour using your fingers, a little at a time, until it all comes together.
Work the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and homogenous. Divide the dough into eight equal-sized pieces and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes. Cover with a tea towel.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
Put the ricotta cheese to drain on a strainer.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Trim the roots and stalks from the spinach. Thoroughly wash the spinach leaves, rinsing several times. Plunge in the boiling, unsalted water for some minutes. Drain the spinach and refresh it in cold water. Squeeze the spinach as hard as you can to remove any excess liquid.
You should have about 400 g of cooked spinach. Chop finely with a knife, place in a pan with olive oil and salt, and cook, moving the herb for 2 minutes on the heat.
Turn off the heat, let cool, add ricotta and Parmesan, and stir.
Back to the dough.
Roll out the first piece to a 15-17 cm circle. Fill, placing the stuffing on one side of the dough and leaving a 1/2 cm edge. Fold the dough over to form semicircles and push the border together with your fingers. Then seal with a fork. Set aside and proceed with the others.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan. Place two green flatbreads (depending on the size of your pan) in the pan and reduce the heat to low–medium. Cook for 3–4 minutes on each side until the dough becomes golden and crisp. Don’t forget to set them straight to cook the narrow, long side. Repeat with the remaining crescioni romagnoli.
Serve warm or store in the freezer.