Explore regional Italian recipes in Italia by Antonio Carluccio, including Chickpea Fritters (Panelle con Frittella); Giant Ravioli with Pecorino and Honey (Sebadas); and Eel Baked with Bay Leaves (Bisato sul' Ara).
Bread and Baked Goods
Pugliese bread has an interesting flavor and texture, and is perhaps the best in Italy. It can also be eaten as fresella—double-baked slices with a cookie-like texture, invented by farmers to make their bread last. In the summer, many Pugliesi eat fresella softened with tomato juice or water, and topped with sliced tomatoes, a little garlic, olive oil, and a sprinkling of oregano or basil. Taralli is the other famous Pugliese bread specialty. These little dough rings, flavored with fennel seeds, are immersed first in boiling water until they surface, and then baked until crisp. They are the equivalent of the grissini of Turin.
Puglia produces more olive oil than any other region in Italy, both for its own abundant use, and also for export (some goes for blending to other regions). It is made variously from Corantina, Frantoio, Oliarola Barese, and Leccino olives, and is mostly of good quality. Puglian olive oil is not as bitter or peppery as Tuscan oil, because the olives are collected later, when they are more mature. The Pugliesi use their olive oil for everything, including preserves.
Great Puglian cheeses include pecorino, caciocavallo, provolone, and mozzarella. There is also burrata, a heavenly cheese unique to Puglia, made with cow's milk on the outside (similar to mozzarella), with filaments of mozzarella combined with heavy cream inside. It must be eaten very fresh and is irresistible. Pecorino cheese is made with sheep's milk and is available in various forms. The youngest pecorino, the marzuolo, is made with milk collected during March, and is particularly tasty because of the new grass. Then there is caciotta (soft and fresh), then pecorino fresco (slightly aged, but still soft), and finally stagionato, which is aged until hard, intense in aroma and flavor, and used instead of Parmesan for grating. Puglia's fresh sheep's milk ricotta tastes exquisite, and there is also a ricotta salata, an aged and salted ricotta for grating.
These include pancetta, sopressata, coppa, salami, and ham. Puglia's sopressata is prepared a punta di coltello, the meat cut with the tip of a knife, rather than ground. There is also a salsiccia di Lecce. In Martina Franca on the hills above Grottaglie, I ate the best capicollo (neck of pork, slightly smoked) I've ever tasted. And if you are ever in this locality, visit the two excellent butcher's stores (Fratelli Ricci, and Romanelli) to buy local specialties. All of these are usually eaten as antipasti, which is especially good in Puglia. There is a curious Easter custom in Bari: eggs are brought to the church where they are blessed, then boiled at home and eaten with sopressata and orange slices, as an antipasto.
Wine and Other Drinks
The wines of Puglia were once strongly alcoholic and produced in large quantities-mostly destined for the north to become part of blends. Nowadays, the production has lessened and the style of the wines is lighter. In general, the wines are now good enough to compete with the best in the world. Names like Salice Salentino, Copertino, Castel del Monte, and Primitivo di Manduria are all white wines made with grapes like Negro Amaro, Bombino Bianco, Trebbiano, Primitivo, Bianco d' Alessandro, Verdeca, Locorotondo, and Aleatico di Puglia. Cacce'mmitte of Lucera is a curious rose wine made from the pulp of red grapes. There are also Gioia del Colle, Gravina, Martina Franca Moscato (sweet) of Trani, Nardo', Rosso Barletta, San Severo, Squinzano, and many more. When in Puglia, always drink the local wine. Saba is a vino cotto, the cooked-down must of grapes, used in southern Italy to make cookies, cakes, etc.
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This page created October 2008
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