Nestled between the picturesque landscapes of Tuscany and Romagna, Lunigiana boasts a rich historical legacy steeped in agriculture, a heritage that resonates deeply in its traditional cuisine. At the heart of this gastronomic tradition lies a unique culinary gem: the testarolo.
Derived from the Italian word “testo,” which refers to a domed griddle, the testarolo is a type of flatbread traditionally cooked using terracotta or cast iron containers reminiscent of those used in Ancient Rome, known as “testi.”
These testi consist of a flat base, known as the “sottano,” and a hollow lid, known as the “soprano.” When heated, the sottano provided an even distribution of heat, akin to an oven, resulting in a light and uniform baking of the testarolo batter.
The portability of these “ovens” was a boon to the region’s agricultural and pastoral communities, allowing them to cook outdoors with ease. This mobility was particularly valuable in an economy centered around farming and herding.
One of the most revered iterations of this culinary tradition is the artisanal testarolo di Pontremoli, recognized as a Slow Food product. Crafted from locally sourced Zeri or Ventitre wheat, these testaroli embody the dedication of farmers like Giuseppe Tognarelli in rediscovering and preserving indigenous grains.
The simple batter of water and wheat, when subjected to the unique baking style facilitated by the testi, yields a delicately fluffy, thin, soft, and light bread. In stark contrast to mass-produced alternatives, which tend to be dense and heavy due to baking on steel slabs, these artisanal testaroli offer a distinctively digestible and flavorful experience.
With each bite of testaroli, one not only savors the flavors of Lunigiana but also partakes in a culinary journey through its storied past, where tradition and innovation converge to create culinary magic.