In the far south of Italy – the heel of the boot – lies the region of Puglia. Drenched in sunshine and surrounded by blue seas, the region’s charm can be found in its vast olive groves, beautiful beaches and rustic cuisine.
One of the regions to best exemplify the Italian cucina povera (frugal kitchen) style of cooking, Puglia embraces the greatness of simplicity – making delicious food with the most natural, highest-quality ingredients available. Here are ways Puglia proves its modest cuisine is anything but plain.
1. It is famous for its exceptional olives
With a landscape dotted with ancient olive groves (an estimated 60 million trees), Puglia is Italy’s largest olive oil producer. Puglia also produces the delicious Bella della Daunia DOP olive, which is prized for its firm flesh and thin skin and ideal served as an aperitivo (try them fried, Pugliese style) or used in cooking.
2. One of its most important crops is durum wheat
Often referred to as the Granaio d’Italia (Granary of Italy), Puglia is a big producer of durum wheat and regarded for its pastas and breads. Pane di Altamura DOP is a famed specialty bread from the city of Altamura that has been made in the region for centuries. It has a characteristic thick golden-brown crust and is cooked in a wood-fired oven. Puglia’s pasta of choice is handmade orecchiette. A longstanding tradition that has been preserved from generation to generation, the pasta is curved into the shape of a tiny bowl unique to each pasta maker’s personal signature.
3. It produces delicious cheeses
Another important aspect of Puglia’s cuisine is its wide range of cheeses, extending from hard and tangy varieties to softer, more spreadable kinds. Here are four favourites:
• Cacioricotta Pugliese – Produced in Salento during spring and summer, this seasonal cheese has characteristics of ricotta and is made from sheep or goat milk.
• Canestrato Pugliese DOP – A traditional local cheese made using whole sheep’s milk, that’s available fresh or aged. Aged Canestrato has a strong flavour and aroma and can be used for grating over pasta.
• Fior di Latte – Italian for “milk’s flower” this mozzarella cheese is made using cow’s milk instead of water buffalo milk.
• Burrata di Andria – A delectable fresh-spun curd cheese with an exterior made of solid mozzarella and an interior made of water buffalo milk cream and mozzarella combined.