Puglia Food Guide: Traditional Food in Puglia (+ 11 Dishes to Try)

Puglia Food Guide: Traditional Food in Puglia (+ 11 Dishes to Try)

The area of Puglia in Italy is a rich region that is quickly becoming a popular destination among foodies and fans of traditional Italian cuisine because of its abundance of fresh produce. Despite the fact that this is a recent development, the toe of Italy’s shoe has always been a popular holiday spot for Italians who are eager to have some fun in the sun. But if you’re a gourmet, you’re going to want to visit Puglia for the cuisine.

As a result of the region’s abundance of wheat and, therefore, pasta, which was manufactured here, it was formerly referred to as the “breadbasket” of Italy because of its favorable growth circumstances, which included an arid environment and sea breezes that provided cooling.

The region known as Apulia (without the letter “G”) is often referred to by its Latin name, Puglia, in an effort to mislead those of us who are not Italian. It doesn’t matter what you name it; this is undeniably one of the most famous and delicious eating places in all of Italy.

But there are more than a few surprises to be had when it comes to the cuisine of Apulia. And if you’re a fan of slow food, Puglia has many opportunities for you to shop at local markets, explore the countryside, and see agriculture firsthand, whether it’s on a food tour or while dining at an excellent farm-to-fork restaurant. In addition, Puglia is home to some of the best olive oil in the world.

There are so many mouthwatering foods that can help you plan your culinary tour; here you’ll find the regional foods from Puglia that you should try when you visit; this includes everything from the staple foods and seasonal foods at the market to the traditional Puglia dishes that you should look out for.

INTRO TO FOOD IN PUGLIA

The region of Apulia, which is noted for its flat farmlands, is responsible for producing at least half of Italy’s olive oil and maybe as much as forty percent of the country’s olive oil today. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that there are more than 50 million olive trees already flourishing throughout the area.

Apulia is a lucky area that receives 2,468 hours of sunlight annually and is bathed in a cool and peaceful air that blows in from the sea, which borders the territory on three sides. In addition, the region has acres and acres of flatlands that are great for farming.

The region is home to a wide variety of fruit and vegetable crops, some of which include olives, artichokes, tomatoes (which are also sometimes grown directly on the patios of local homeowners), grapes, peppers, and mushrooms. Because such a huge section of the area is seaside, there is also an endless amount of seafood that can be obtained.

The Masseria

If you don’t have relatives in Puglia, staying in a Masseria is the next best thing you can do while you’re there. These fortified farmhouses may be found dispersed around the countryside, and the majority of them provide lodging for visitors. The Masseria is a similar idea to the agriturismos found in Tuscany or the Buschenshanks found in Austria. Both of these types of establishments serve delicious cold charcuterie platters, make their own wine, and provide nice accommodations for guests to stay in for one or two nights.

There are some luxurious materials, while others are far more homey and rustic in their atmosphere. It’s not uncommon for the experience to be so local that you wind up having breakfast or supper with the owner’s family. In the same vein as an agriturismo, many masserie are active farms that produce their own cheese, bread, olive oil, and wine on the premises. The meals were simple yet tasty, and they were the ideal opportunity to sample the regional specialties.

PUGLIA FOOD: COMMON STAPLES AND INGREDIENTS

Meat

Lamb and mutton are the types of locally bred livestock whose flesh are eaten the most often in the Apulian area. Although it is not as abundant as lamb meat, the region also provides access to horsemeat as a reliable source of nutrition. Lamb is the kind of meat that is farmed the most often, and it is frequently cooked both by butchers and at traditional food booths on the street on open wood-fired grills that are known as rosticceria.

Take a stroll through its fascinating network of narrow streets, and while you’re there, find a local trattoria that serves Bombette di Alberobello, also known as Bombette Pugliese. These are meat rolls made of pork that are stuffed with a small piece of caciocavallo cheese, salami, salt, pepper, and parsley.

This meal can remind Italian-Americans of irascible people, so keep that in mind. However, in contrast to braciola, bimbettes are repaired with a toothpick before being threaded on a skewer and grilled over an open flame. Bombette di Alberobello have a texture that is both crunchy and juicy, and they are quite tasty.

Seafood

In Puglia, a good source of protein that is much more easily accessible than meat is the bountiful supply of freshly caught seafood from the region’s waters. There is a large variety of fish and seafood dishes available in Pugliese cuisine. Popular regional fish include swordfish (pesce spada), sea bass (spigola and branzino), mullet (triglia), and bream. Triglia is a kind of mullet (orata).

But the frutas di mare, which includes things like sea urchins, octopus, cuttlefish, anchovies, mussels, scallops, razor clams, oysters, and squid, are the ones that are relished the most often. These are often served uncooked in what is known as “il Crudo Barese” when ordered in the city of Bari.

One unusual delicacy that is not considered to be fresh seafood is tarantella di Tonno. This one-of-a-kind and time-honored dish has been made in the city of Taranto in the region of Puglia since the 16th century. Fresh tuna is sliced thin and laid to dry in the sun, then the layers are preserved in olive oil to be used later in a variety of dishes.

It has a significant place in Pugliese cuisine and a long and interesting history to go with it.

Cheese

Puglia is well recognized as one of the most important cheese-making areas in Italy. The province produces a wide variety of cheeses, including caciocavallo, burrata, stracciatella, and cacioricotta (goat cheese), amongst others. Even while nearby areas like Calabria, Basilicata, and Campania also make some of these cheeses, the versions that are made in Puglia have their own distinct characteristics.

Canestrato Pugliese is a hard sheep’s milk cheese that gets its name from the little baskets (Canestrini) in which it is allowed to mature. It is the only DOP cheese that is created entirely in the region of Puglia, and it is the only cheese that is made from sheep’s milk. The well-known Pugliese spring cheese is produced in Foggia and Bari, and it is one of the famous tangy cheeses that are grated and sprinkled over a variety of foods, including pasta and Foccacia.

The region to the north of Puglia, close to Gargano, is famous for a type of cheese called caciocavallo Podolico. These cheeses are produced from the milk of Podolian cows, a breed that produces very little milk and only at particular times of the year. In order to acquire its one-of-a-kind flavor, the cheese is first formed into balls, then hung on a string by its navel, and finally aged for anything from a few months to six years.

Made in Lecce from a combination of sheep and cow milk, Marzotica cheese is one of Puglia’s Spring cheeses that is traditionally produced in the month of March. It is a well-known cheese produced in the region of Puglia and provides further evidence of the region’s commitment to adhering to seasonality (Marzo in Italian). This cheese is produced as the sheep begin grazing on spring grass, as the name suggests, and you can really taste the freshness of the grass in the cheese.

Burrata and Stracciatella – If you love soft creamy cheeses like the Amalfi Coast buffalo mozzarella, Puglia’s burrata and stracciatella are both made with fresh cream and mozzarella cheese strings; the final shape or structure is primarily what determines which cheese it becomes. Burrata and Stracciatella are both made in Puglia.

Specialty Fruit And Produce

Olives – Apulia is home to more than 50 million olive trees, and it’s difficult to fathom the volume of olives that are harvested from those trees each year. Not only do these plants account for the vast majority of olive trees across the whole of Italy, but the province of Apulia is also home to some of the oldest olive trees that are still alive in the entire nation! Cortina, Frantoio, Ogliarola Barese, and Leccino are the four primary olive breeds that are farmed in this region. Leccino is the most common.

Prickly Pear – The food of Puglia included a variety of dishes that were only found in the southern region of Italy. One example of this type of fruit is the prickly pear, which is characterized by orange-colored globules that develop on the cacti that grow in the dry plains of Puglia. They are the sugary and syrupy opuntia, often known as prickly pears or by their Italian name, fico d’India. The popular term for these plants is prickly pear.

Whatever you want to name these delectable morsels, they are one of the most widely available fruits in Puglia between the months of August through October. They are tasty fruits that are comparable to kiwis and are good for you.

These delicious dwarf peas, known as Piselli nano di Zollino, are considered to be one of the most genuinely local dishes in all of Puglia. These peas, which are yellowish-brown in color and resemble chickpeas, are the pride of the little town of Zollino in the province of Lecce. Zollino is one of nine towns in the Grecia Salentina region, which is an area where Griko, a form of Greek, is still spoken.

The local senior farmers choose the peas by hand after the harvest, and then they are preserved until the planting season of the next year, which helps to maintain the unique biodiversity of the pea crop. However, not all of the peas have been put away. Some of them are prepared by cooking them in an earthenware pot with garlic, onions, celery, and fresh tomatoes, while others are prepared by tossing tria pasta noodles with them.

Wine

Even though Puglia may not be as well-known for its winemaking as some of Italy’s other wine regions, it is gaining a reputation for the production of deep, rich, and fruity red wines, particularly those that come from the Salento region. This is especially true of the wines that are produced in the Salento region.

As a result of the exceptional weather and rich soil in this region, ideal circumstances have been created for growing grapes, which has led to an increase in wine production. Negroamaro and Nero di Troia are two varieties that you absolutely have to try.

Bread

If there is one dish from Puglia that is known throughout all of Italy, it is the robust wheat that is grown in this region. Apulia is home to a significant portion of Italy’s durum wheat production, making it the ideal vacation spot for those with a penchant for carbohydrates. You could therefore say that bread and pasta are of utmost importance in Puglia.

Pane de Altamura, which is produced in Puglia, is one of only six breads in Italy (out of over 1,000 varieties total) to have been awarded the prestigious DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) designation. This is an interesting fact about the Italian cuisine found in the region of Puglia.

Altamura Bread

Bread connoisseurs and people who aspire to be bakers from all over the world should make it a point to visit Puglia in order to sample Pane de Altamura. The tradition of baking bread in Altamura dates back to Roman times.

The large loaves of bread are made with durum wheat flour that is grown in Altamura. They have an appealing round shape, and the exterior crust has a thickness of 3 millimetres, which ensures that the crumb will be soft and last for a long time.

Pasta

The bright yellow pastas that you might be familiar with from northern Italy are not typical of the pasta served in Puglia. This is due to the fact that tagliatelle, papardelle, tortellini, and other types of pasta found in northern regions are made with egg. The region of Puglia is known for its simple pastas, which are typically made from flour and water. But the variety of pasta in Puglia isn’t the only thing that sets it apart; the shape of the pasta is also highly characteristic of this southern region.

Orecchiette are known as the “pasta ears of Puglia,” and no other type of pasta in Italy is as closely associated with a specific region as orecchiette are. Orecchiette is a fundamental component of the regional cuisine of Apulia and can be found virtually anywhere that serves pasta. The history of Apulia includes the small pasta shaped like cups, as well as the widespread cultivation of grapes in the region as well as the presence of a salty sea breeze. The shape of the noodles, which can be literally translated to “little ears,” is the inspiration for the dish’s namesake.

In Bari the pasta is especially integral to the culture of the local communities. You can still today find the older generation making and selling orecchiette throughout the community.

Cavatelli – While orecchiette is the most commonly found pasta in Bari and in all of Apugla, other very commonly found varieties in the city of Foggia in northern Puglia include cavatelli, curti, gruessi, stacchiotti, and troccoli. Strascinate and cecatelli are two more pasta shapes: the strascinate is a sort of unrolled Orecchiette while cecatelli is the shape of an unrolled cavatelli noodle.

Cavatelli was often found in my grandmother’s kitchen, served with her homemade sauce. She was from outside Foggia in northern Apulia. My grandfather was born in a small hill town outside Naples where lemon and citrus feature prominently in the cuisine. So it’s no surprise that one of my favourite Italian dishes to eat and to make is Cavatelli con Broccoli al Limone — it’s the perfect marriage of the two cultures of my Italian heritage.

Tria – Like the rest of Puglia, pasta is King, and the texture and shapes of pasta vary even within the region. In Lecce, the long Tria ribbon pasta noodle is popular.

You’ll find all of these pastas tossed with fresh seafood, simply mixed with tomatoes, olive oil and grated cheese, or with sauteed broccoli or rapini (broccoli rabe). Strascinate is sometimes served with a sauce of arugula, potatoes and fennel. Yum!

11 MUST-TRY TRADITIONAL PUGLIA DISHES

1. Acquasale

As you’d expect, bread in Puglia is perfect from loaf to mouth, and tearing it with your hands fresh from the oven is our favourite way to eat it — the entire loaf if I’m not careful! But you’ll also find bread added to salads and some soups and stews to thicken them.

Acquasala is a local salad similar to a Panzanella salad that puts stale Puglian bread to very good use. The salad is made from pieces of stale bread mixed with fresh tomatoes, basil and red onions, or simply a piece of stale crusty Apuglian bread topped with fresh tomatoes and fresh olive oil — more like a gazpacho than a salad as the liquid from the fresh veggies tastes like summer in a bowl.

2. Orecchiette Con Cima Di Rape

Orecchiette con Cima di Rape is the most typical dish cooked using orecchiette. Broccoli rabe is a bitter variety of broccoli that is prevalent in the region of Apulia. Orecchiette may also be found as an unusual street dish in Bari, where they are offered in little cups that can be taken on the move.

3. BACCALA ALLA SALENTINA

Baccala, also known as salt cod fish, is a popular fish dish in Italy; the preparation that is typical of the Pugliese region is particularly mouthwatering. This regional version is traditionally cooked in the oven with potatoes prepared in the Salento way and, on occasion, tomatoes that have been matured in the sun.

4. Bombette Pugliese

Although meat does not play a significant role in traditional Puglian cuisine — in the past, it was traditionally reserved as a dish for special occasions — as we noted above, lamb and port are two dishes that are often included on the menu nowadays. Despite this, BOMBETTE is without a doubt one of the most well-liked dishes in all of Puglia right now (pork rolls filled with cheese).

5. Pizza And Foccacia

In the city of Bari, focaccia is famous for having a topping that consists of an abundance of vine-ripened and sun-dried cherry tomatoes from the region, locally produced kalamata olives, and just the proper amount of Italian spices. 00 Flour, which is normally derived from durum wheat and is known for being light and rich in protein, is used to make the dough for the famous crispy Focaccia Pugliese. This flour is what gives the bread its characteristic crispy texture.

However, if you live in the United States and don’t have any 00 flour on hand but still want to give the recipe for this famous street snack from Bari a try at home, you may use all-purpose flour in its place. This is a normal practise in the country.

Another dish that is popular in Puglia that has some similarities to pizza is called pizza rustica. This version of the dish is a stuffed pie much like panzerotti. Rustico Leccese is a kind of puff pastry that is filled with tomato, cheese, and bechamel sauce. If you find yourself in Salento, you should taste it.

6. Tiella Barese

Due to the unique mix that characterises this regional delicacy, the traditional Tiella Barese is very well-liked among both the inhabitants and the visitors that visit the area. Mussels from Puglia, rice, and potatoes roasted in the oven to create a delicious dish. The meal was traditionally baked in a huge bowl with a clay bottom, which is where the dish’s namesake, the tiella, got its name. Tiella Barese is a dish that brings out a lot of colour and has a lot of taste thanks to the addition of chunks of local tomato, onion, and spices like oregano. It is without a doubt one of the delicacies that has brought Bari the most notoriety.

7. Ciceri E Tria

Although the cuisine of Lecce differs from that found in other regions of Puglia, it nonetheless makes use of many of the regional specialties that are characteristic of Puglian cooking. Ciceri e Tria is a well-known dish that is often served in the baroque city of Lecce. It is prepared using Tria, the native ribbon-shaped pasta, so be ready to drool.

Ciceri e Tria literally means “chickpeas with pasta,” although this translation isn’t quite accurate. In order to make the chickpeas more tender, they are soaked in water overnight before being used in this meal (though you can use canned chickpeas, rinsed well, if you want to make it at home). Then, they are cooked until soft in a simmering liquid together with a variety of colourful, fragrant, seasonal veggies.

This dish’s noodles are made from scratch by combining water, salt, and the native durum wheat that is a main crop in the Tavoliere plain, which is located in the northern section of Apulia.

About a quarter of the noodles are fried, and the remaining noodles are cooked along with the chickpeas in a pot. This is the point at which things start to become very interesting. The completed dish is a mouthwatering combination of fried pasta, pasta that has been boiled until it is soft and slurpable, and chickpeas that is garnished with fresh parsley and fiery red peppers.

Vegetarian Dishes

Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! In certain regions of Italy, you could have a hard time finding as many alternatives as you will in Puglia. If you visit to Puglia at any time of the year, you will always be able to enjoy delectable meals that are expertly made using the most delicious and fresh local produce.

8. Fave e Cicorie

This recipe is produced with local ingredients and is quite straightforward to prepare. It consists of a fava bean puree that is mixed with local greens, most often chickory, which is a green that is little bitter but substantial and is frequently used in soups and stews.

9. Parmigiana di Melanzane / Parmigiana di Carciofi

These two very similar parmesan recipes, one cooked with eggplant (known locally as “melanzane”) and the other with artichokes, are two robust and tasty vegetable meals that are often found across Puglia (carciofi). The straightforward recipe often consists of tossing the primary item in a significant amount of olive oil and parmesan cheese, followed by topping it with a soft cheese like mozzarella and breadcrumbs that have been cooked from scratch.

10. Sgagliozze (fried polenta)

If you want to participate in a time-honored custom while you’re in Bari, search for the Italian women who make fried polenta on the corner of the street. It’s possible that you don’t think of polenta as a characteristic product of southern Italy, much less a beach town like Bari. However, the tradition of sgagliozze has existed in Puglia since ancient times, when semolina wheat and olive oil mated to create the ideal fried cake. It is really worth tracking down, and having the opportunity to see it being created is the cherry on top!

11. PASTICCIOTTi

Dessert in Puglia often consists of a light pastry of some kind flavoured with almonds, and one of the delectable pasticciotti (pronounced pah-sti-CHAW-ti) from Lecce that you’ll discover in Puglia is one of these well-known sweets that you’ll find there. The sweet treat that can’t be missed in Puglia!

MARKETS AND STREET FOOD

When we travel around Italy, one of our favourite things to do is taste the local street cuisine. Although Puglia does not have as wide of a selection of street food as some of the other places in Italy, there are a few dishes that stand out among the crowd that are worth seeking out.

The street cuisine in Puglia is comparable to that which you may encounter in the United States or in New York City. These are delicious and doughy hand-held dishes such as the renowned Panzerotto, which is akin to a calzone, or the classic Focaccia Barese, which Puglia is so well known for.

The recipe, similar to that of the majority of traditional Apulian street cuisine that originates from the peasant period in Italian villages, has been updated and tweaked within houses based on the ingredients that are most easily accessible. Variations are also influenced by locally grown produce that is available within the region at any given time, and then later by local chefs experimenting with various flavours until the end results are pretty much infinite. Variations are also influenced by locally grown produce that is available within the region at any given time.

Roasted potatoes with vegetables

The Pugliese dish known as panzerotti is widely considered to be among the most well-liked and well-known of all street meals to have originated in the region of Puglia. Panzerotti is one of the most popular meals found in the peasant cuisine of Puglia and was originally developed at a time when Italy was a developing nation and quite destitute.

Panzerotti are similar in appearance to mini-calzones and are traditionally made by people from the region of Puglia using bread dough that has been saved from other recipes. The Panzerotti, on the other hand, can be held in the palm of your hand, in contrast to the calzone, and it is the ideal portion size for snacking on the move.

The meal was historically prepared, and to a considerable extent it still is now, using simple items that can be found in the kitchens of the majority of Pugliese households. The most classic kind of the Panzerotti pastry is stuffed with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes from the area, and oregano.

Keep an eye out for other well-known varieties, some of which may include additional ingredients like as anchovies, prosciutto, olives, ricotta forte, and scamorza cheese.

Focaccia Pugliese (Ruoto di Focaccia Barese) – All around Italy, you’ll discover several various kinds of focaccia, all of which are produced a little bit differently dependent on where and by whom it’s manufactured. One of them is the Focaccia Pugliese. You may hear people in Bari refer to Focaccia Pugliese as Ruoto di Focaccia Barese, which literally translates as Focaccia Wheel from Bari. You may get this dish in Bari.

The Saturday Market In Ostuni

At the event that you find yourself in Ostuni on a Saturday morning, you should schedule some time in your schedule to go to the market there. According to the criteria of some individuals, the market is not very impressive. However, it is a beautiful site to locate a huge assortment of regional delicacies on sale all in one spot at the same time, which makes it a lovely destination to visit.

Even foodies need to go shopping, therefore the Ostuni market provides a great selection of locally created and imported apparel, handbags, shoes, and jewellery. Although we can’t promise that the food will live up to the rest of the market’s offerings, we can guarantee that the other items will.

You may purchase locally produced fruits, tomatoes, round cucumbers, and beans like the locally cultivated lupini bean, as well as local walnuts, figs, and speciality products like almonds that have been marinated in salt, all while taking in the city’s breathtaking views of the sea. Find the sellers who are selling caciocavallo cheeses that are hung up by a thread and look for them.

Because the city is located on the seaside, you will also be able to enjoy fresh seafood and other “fruits of the sea” throughout your stay. It should come as no surprise to find trays of snails available for sale at the local restaurants and marketplaces.

WHY WE LOVED PUGLIA FOOD (AND YOU WILL TOO)

I have known for a very long time that certain sorts of foods are beneficial to my constitution when eaten. Even though we both consume meat, we cannot be considered carnivores (unless we find ourselves in Emilia Romagna). The cuisine of Puglia is heavily centred on some of our most beloved meals, such as pastas made from durum wheat, fresh produce from the region, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables. The fact that meat has become practically a secondary food source is quite convenient for a lot of people, including ourselves.

As was previously said, the inclusion of Pugliese cuisine on your itinerary of things to eat in Italy will be very much appreciated by vegetarians.

There are many things to like about the cuisine of Puglia. It takes into account the seasons. It’s a throwback to the country’s traditional “cucina povera” style, which emphasises meals with few yet tasty ingredients. The fact that Apulia is one of the tourist sites in Italy that receives the fewest number of visitors each year is possibly the most appealing aspect of going there.

In point of fact, sites like the Saturday Market in Ostuni aren’t very well-traveled at all, which allows the gourmet in you the opportunity to leisurely explore the region. It’s time to take in the views, scents, and tastes of the area like a true native would.

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