Pasta from Puglia (Apulia)
Puglia (or Apulia in English), the region that is the "heel" of Italy's boot, is a long, narrow peninsula with about 500 miles of
coastline. It is bordered by two seas, the Ionian and Adriatic. Since Puglia is such a large region its cooking varies greatly
from its coastline to the plains and mountains of the interior. With its long coastline, fish plays a major role in the local
cuisine. Mullet, sardines, squid, tuna and swordfish are caught wild and mussels and oysters are cultivated in the warm
shallow waters of the lagoons of Varano and Taranto. The interior of Puglia is rocky and here there are many sheep and
goats which are bred for their meat as well as their milk which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular
meat, followed by pork and horsemeat. The majority of regional cheeses are made with sheep’s milk, but there are some
cow’s milk cheeses as well. Perhaps the most famous Puglian cheese is Burrata which is made from mozzarella and
There are three things that are essential to a Puglian kitchen: vegetables, wheat and olive oil. Perhaps no region in Italy
uses more vegetables than Puglia. Because the region was historically poor and farming was the main occupation, most
people grew their own vegetables and invented dozens of ways to prepare them. Vegetables are featured not only in pasta
sauces and as accompaniments to meat dishes but also in focaccia and pizza. Vegetables are grilled or braised or
marinated or preserved in oil for an antipasto. Like all Italians, Apulians don't believe in undercooking vegetables; they
prefer vegetables slippery soft, never crunchy. Bitter greens are typically boiled first in water, then sautéed slowly in plenty
of olive oil; the result is a mass of tender greens with only a pleasant note of bitterness.
Plenty of fine quality durum wheat is grown and thrives in the hot, dry climate of Puglia and is used to make wonderful breads.
Puglia's bread is famous throughout Italy. It is prepared in many variations. Focaccia (flatbreads) might be flavored simply with
herbs or olives in the dough or topped or stuffed with vegetables. Taralli are small crunchy bread rings that are served with an
apertivo. Friselle are larger flat pieces of dough that are briefly soaked in water and often topped with diced tomatoes.
As with bread, the local durum wheat is also used in Puglia's delicious pasta. The pasta
dough is made simply from durum wheat flour, water and salt. Eggs, once considered a
luxury, are not used in traditional Puglian pasta-making. The most famous pasta in
Puglia is orecchiette or "little ears." Their texture is rough to ensure that they trap and
absorb the sauce. The classic accompaniment to orecchiette is a sauce made with
broccoli rabe but it is often paired with beans, greens, or other vegetables such as
broccoli, zucchini, or cauliflower; feast-day orecchiette are served with a robust meat
sauce. Other varieties of pasta that are popular in Puglia are also usually small in size,
such as cavatelli. In many of the small villages, fresh pasta is still made on a daily
basis by the elderly ladies (signore) who sit outside their front doors making pasta and
selling it right there to the locals.
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Mushrooms
Broccoli and broccoli rabe (also called rapini) are very common in Puglia.
Broccoli rabe has a strong flavor and a slight bitterness. Orecchiette with
broccoli rabe is probably the most famous Puglian pasta dish. It's unique flavor
comes from the anchovy, a common ingredient in southern Italian cooking. This
recipe is a little different than the traditional dish in that it also adds mushrooms.
In Puglia the dish is not very spicy, but you can add more red pepper flakes if
you like your food hotter.
1 bunch (about 12 ounces) broccoli rabe
Salt and pepper
12 - 16 ounces orecchiette pasta
7 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 - 5 slices Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
8 ounces porcini or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 anchovies, minced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
6 - 7 large basil leaves, julienned
Trim the ends and coarsely chop the broccoli rabe. Bring a saucepan of salted
water to a boil. Blanch the broccoli rabe for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook the orecchiette
according to the package directions, usually about 11 minutes. Reserve about
1 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet
over medium-high heat. Add the bread cubes and sauté until they are golden
brown, turning often. Transfer the bread cubes to a paper-towel lined plate and
In the same skillet, heat 3 more tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high
heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until they are starting
to brown. Stir in the garlic, lemon zest, anchovies, and red pepper flakes;
cook for 30 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe and season with salt. Add about
1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the vegetable mixture in the
skillet, stirring to coat. Add the remaining reserved pasta water if it seems too
Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Stir in the julienned basil leaves and
toasted croutons. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.
Every pasta shape has a hometown in Italy,
the place where it was invented and where
its heart still belongs. That’s why different
shapes of pasta have traditional ways of
being served-the recipes were created
using the ingredients that grew best in that
area to accompany the pasta. Orecchiette
originated in the southern province of
Puglia. Wheat flourishes in the region,
making pasta and bread both important
parts of the local cuisine. Orecchiette's
round, concave shape led to its name,
which means “little ears” in Italian.
The ridged exterior and cup-like interior
captures chunky sauces and scoops up
small vegetables. In Southern Italy,
orecchiette are traditionally made by hand
from durum wheat semolina flour, and the
characteristic shape of the small ear pasta
is formed by pressing the thumb into cubes
of pasta dough. While the pasta may
ordinarily be handmade, there are several
commercial manufacturers of orecchiette
Cavatelli with Sausage and a Red Wine-Tomato Sauce(Serves 4)
This recipe can also be made with another small pasta such as orecchiette.
Serve it with a side of broccoli rabe, as its bitterness compliments the richness of
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 spicy-hot Italian sausages, removed from skins and crumbled
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 (28-ounce) can pureed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper
12-16 ounces cavatelli or similar-sized pasta
Grated pecorino cheese, for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the crumbled sausage; break it up with a wooden spoon and cook until
well browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the pureed tomatoes
and red wine; season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then
reduce to a simmer and cover, keeping the lid slightly ajar. Simmer the sauce
for 30 minutes.
In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water cook the pasta until al dente.
To serve, toss the cooked pasta with the sauce and sprinkle with pecorino
In Puglia, one wheat field follows another
and predominately it is durum wheat that is
used to make wonderful Puglian breads
and pasta. Durum wheat is the hardest of
all the wheat species. Both semolina and
durum flour are products rendered from
milled durum wheat. The endosperm---the
nutrients surrounding the wheat seeds---is
separated from the grain through the
milling process resulting in coarsely-
ground flour known as semolina. The
texture of semolina is heavier---like hard
bread crumbs---and is more coarse than
most milled flours. Durum flour is the fine
ground powder left over from the milling
process. Durum flour is much finer than
semolina and is a yellow-hued powder that
resembles more traditional baking flours.
If you are making pasta using durum flour,
the dough is less elastic than bread
doughs and can be easily forced through
pasta makers. Semolina flour on other
hand, has a coarse texture similar to
cornmeal that holds the dough of the pasta
together and strengthens it when heated.
Both semolina and durum flour are high in
proteins and gluten. Commercially
produced dry pasta (pasta secca) is made
almost exclusively from durum semolina.
Most home made fresh pastas (pasta
fresca), such as orecchiette and cavatelli,
also use durum wheat or a combination of
soft and hard wheat flours.
(Makes 1 pound of pasta)
Puglian pasta does not contain any eggs; it is made with a simple combination
of flour, salt and water that yields great flavor.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
Salt, to taste
Water, about 3/4 cup
In a bowl, mix together the flours and salt. Gradually add the water, stirring to
incorporate the water into the flour. Add more water as needed until the dough
begins to come together into a ball. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured
surface and knead until smooth, about 4-5 minutes.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
Pinch off a small portion of the dough and, using your hands, roll it on a lightly
floured work surface into a long roll about 1/2-inch in diameter. Roll with your
hands beginning at the center and working toward the edges to keep the rope
an even thickness. Using an icing spatula or butter knife, cut the rope into 1/2-
inch pieces. Place a flat side of the spatula or knife on top of one of the pieces
of dough on your work surface. Push the knife and pasta down and away from
you so that the pasta flattens and curls over on itself. Spread the cavatelli on
lightly floured baking sheets and allow to dry for 20-30 minutes. Cook the
cavatelli in a saucepan of boiling salted water until they float to the surface,
about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the cavatelli and add your favorite sauce.
Linguine with Zucchini
As is the case with many Puglian dishes, the whole is a great deal more
impressive than the sum of its parts.
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium zucchini. halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper
12 ounces linguine or spaghetti
Grated pecorino cheese for sprinkling
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the zucchini and onions. Saute for about 4 minutes or until the vegetables
are tender. Stir in the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Add the wine and
increase the heat to high. Cook for about 2 minutes or until most of the wine
has evaporated. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
Cook the linguine in a saucepan of boiling salted water for the time indicated on
the package, Drain and toss with the vegetable sauce. Serve sprinkled with
PUGLIAN OLIVE OIL
Puglia is famous for many things but
nothing defines Puglia as much as the 50
to 60 million olive trees that carpet the
region from the north to the south. Millions
of them are centuries old, some even
thousands of years old -so old that they are
protected by the government. The lime
soils and dry climate offer ideal conditions
for successful olive growing. With its
intense flavor, the fruity acidic olive oil of
Puglia is just as essential to cooking as it
is to the region's economy. Olive oil
production is the most important economic
factor in the region of Puglia. The olive oil
and table olives produced here account for
40% of Italian and 15% of global
production. The cultivation areas extend
over 3 strips of land: the province of Foggia,
the province of Bari, and the Salento
peninsula. Although there are many
varieties, the olives grown in the south
usually produce golden yellow oils that are
robust with a slightly nutty aroma.
This condiment, olive oil made spicy with the
addition of red peppers or crushed red pepper
flakes is a staple on tables in southern Puglia.
It is the perfect condiment for Puglian dishes
such as potatoes, greens, beans, and roasted
peppers. It is also delcious with fresh bread
and cheese. To make olio santo, combine 1
part dried peppers or pepper flakes and 4
parts olive oil in a jar. Let sit in a cool place for
commonly used in
many Puglian dishes
to add a depth of flavor.
The anchovies are
melted into warm olive
oil. Their seemingly
strong flavor is not
noticeable in the final
dish, the only thing that
lingers is a mild
Many southern pasta
dishes are topped with
toasted bread crumbs.
This custom probably
dates back to a time
when cheese was too
costly for many of the
locals to afford. The
crumbs add a pleasing
crunch and rich, toasty
flavor to vegetable and
fish sauces. In some
recipes, they are first
sautéed with olive oil
anchovies for a salty
tang and extra flavor.
I LOVE PUGLIA
Show your love of Puglia with this embroidered hat available in black or white