The Puglia region, and the capitol Bari, is a woofully underappreciated part of Italy. Forget Tuscany or Venice, if you want to experience real authentic Italian culture and food this is where you should go. From incredible white sand beaches (Puglia is a frequent stand in for Thailand in movies) to picturesque villages (you have to visit Alberobello!), Puglia is unlike any other place on earth. They have their own languages, their own culture and their own cuisine. I immediately fell in love with Puglia, not in a small part due to the delicious food, when I first visited last year. Here are some of the dishes that stole my heart:
Orecchiette con cime di rapa
Of course, you can find pasta all over Italy, but some varieties are strictly local. The “nonna’s” (grandmothers) of Puglia are the original creators of orecchiette. Orechiette loosely translated to “little ears”, because their shape resembles that of al earshell. Nowadays, orecchiette are mass produced in factories all over Italy. But you can still see the old ladies make them fresh, by hand in the streets of Bari. Go to the “via delle orechiette” in the old town of Bari in the morning to see the nonna’s perform their magic while gossiping amongst eachother. In the afternoon, the pasta are laid out to dry in the sun on wooded drying racks. It’s a unique cultural food experience in Italy.
Orechiette are not eaten with just any old sauce. The traditional way of serving orechiette is with brocolli rabe, olive oil, pecorino cheese, garlic and red chili flakes.
Crema di fagioli
Forget mashed potatoes, the ultimate comfort food is crema di fagioli. Crema di fagioli is a dish from Puglia made with cannelini beans. The beans are cooked, seasoned and mashed into a smooth cream not unlike humus. This delicious cream is served with a heap of brocoli rabe stewed in a garlicky tomato sauce. It’s absolutely delicious!
Summers in Puglia get very hot, so granita is the perfect snack to cool off with. Granita is made with shaved ice, but much better than a regular snowcone. In puglia granita is shaved very finely and infused with fresh fruit. Although granita is originally Sicilian, the people of Puglia have made it their own with local Puglian flavors. The granita with fresh mullberries or cactusfruit are a must try!
If you think regular pizza is good, but a little too healthy, then panzerotti is for you! Panzerotti are like small calzones. They are deep-fried pieces of pizza dough, filled with tomato sauce and cheese. Because they are fried, they are crispier and fluffier than regular calzones. The traditional panzerotto has a margharita filling, but there is alsoa variety with onion, capers anchovis. Panzerotti are the perfect drunk snack as it combines pizza and fried food.
Focaccia con pomodoro
Almost every region is Italy has their own version of focaccia. Focaccia is essentially a semi-fried bread. It is made by dousing a sheet pan filled with bread dough in olive oil before baking it in the oven. The result is a fluffy, cripsy, oily bread. In Puglia focaccia they add cherry tomatoes, glently pressed into the top of the focaccia and baked in the oven. When the tomatoes burst in the heat, they infuse the bread with their sweet and tangy juice. It is utterly delicous.
Puglia is a foodie heaven a dream destination in Italy. If you love Italian food as much as I do, you have to go here. If this post has left your mouth watering, share it on social media!