Podenzana Panigaccio

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Panigaccio is a traditional flatbread from the village of Podenzana in the historical region of Lunigiana on the borders of Tuscany and Liguria. It is made by mixing wheat flour, water, and salt to form a thick batter, which is cooked on small, round, shallow terracotta terrines called testi. The testi are heated in a wood fire until red-hot, the batter is poured into them, and then they are stacked on top of each other. The result is thin flatbreads with a diameter of about 15 centimeters, a pale golden color, fragrant aroma, savory flavor, and crunchy texture. In the past, the testi were heated on the fires lit inside gradili, traditional stone huts where chestnuts were smoke dried. The cooking time for panigacci varies based on the amount of water in the batter, the temperature of the testi, and the humidity of the environment. Whatever these conditions, panigacci (the plural of panigaccio) must be cooked long enough to become crunchy. They can be eaten hot with cured meats and cheese, or blanched in boiling water and served as a first course with various condiments. Panigacci are prepared and available throughout the year in bakeries and restaurants around Podenzana.

According to local chronicles from the 1500s, the name panigaccio derives from panigo, a variant of panico, which refers to foxtail millet (Setaria italica), an ancient grain that, together with chestnut flour, used to be a primary source of nourishment for the people of Lunigiana. Millet was historically cultivated in the area around the towns of Podenzana, Aulla, Tresana, and Licciana Nardi. In the 19th century, the production of panigacci declined due to the arrival of the railroad, which allowed the introduction of corn and other new crops that, being more productive and versatile, displaced millet. However, the tradition of making panigacci was revived in the early 20th century, especially in Podenzana: It is here, in the hamlet of Barco, that the terracotta testi are produced from local clay. For centuries, families in Barco have preserved and passed down the knowledge associated with the manufacture of testi.

Today, an association of restaurateurs in Podenzana carries on the tradition of panigaccio and the bread is celebrated in local events such as the panigaccio festival, which has occurred every August for over 50 years. With support from the Region of Tuscany and a network of local businesses, some residents of the area are reviving the production and use of flours made from heirloom and other locally grown grains, and thus helping to sustain a circular economy. Panigaccio remains well-rooted in the territory and culture of Podenzana and its production has spread to neighboring towns. Some bakers outside of Podenzana, however, have abandoned traditional methods for the preparation of panigaccio in favor of cheaper and more profitable techniques.

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Production area:Podenzana (Massa Carrara Province)

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Bread and baked goods

Nominated by:Matteo Podenzana