Snapshots from Italy: Puglia
Puglia is foccacia on the beach.
And hanging the laundry between two olive trees.
It’s joining the midnight crowd…
…and escaping the midday routine.
If Italy is a boot then Puglia is its heel, a peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic and Ionic seas. I love Puglia for so many reasons. Besides the gorgeous white cities, the constant smell of figs, the overgrowth of Oleander, the pristine beaches, the masserie and trulli, the generous people (and their dubious driving), I love Puglia for the food.
A local specialty is pasta maritata, a mixture of orecchiete and trofie (literally, “married pasta” because of the way the shapes resemble, um, certain corresponding parts of human anatomy and because, let’s face it, they go so well together). Traditionally pasta maritata is made by hand with fresh, local whole wheat or buckwheat flour. Puglia is said to grow the best flour in Italy (over 80% of Italian pasta – including our go-to everyday brand, De Cecco, comes from the region). Common ways of serving pasta maritata (sometimes called just orecchiette), include my do-at-home favorite crudaiola (which I make here), a quick sauce of barely wilted tomatoes with either arugula or basil and cacio ricotta grated on top:
Seeing as there’s plenty of coastline, there’s also plenty of seafood (and more fresh, egg-free pasta, just the way I like it)…
And, as an alternative to pasta, Puglia has lots of amazing, mind-blowingly delicious focaccie, pizze, torte rustiche, panezerotti, and other carb and cheese combinations that (I cannot even begin to tell you how) perfectly satisfied my seven-month pregnantness. Behold:
All of which was washed down with a healthy dose of fresh cheese:
Ok, so my choices were obviously driven not by the desire to sample Puglia’s diverse cuisine, but by some biological need to consume as much bread and pasta as humanely possible in the space of eight short days. Thus, I shunned some of my old favorites like fried meatballs, cicoria with dried fava puree, zuppa di pesce, bombette and braciola. In fact, I was quite boring, insisting that we return to the same restaurants and bakeries over and over just to satisfy my daily pizza quota. (Upon moving on to Rome, a few days ago, my daily pizza intake became even more impressive/disturbing. I’m talking twice a day. It almost makes me concerned for Francesco’s overall well-being, though, now that I think about, I haven’t heard any complaints.)
We’ve been away from Puglia for four days now and already I miss the scents and colors, sounds and flavors. It may be awhile until we go back, so I may try to recreate little pieces of Puglia at home. I hope you don’t mind, since it means you’re coming along for the ride.