Today we’ll discover the wonderful region of Puglia (or “Apulia”). For a food lover, this is a fabulous area of Italy to explore! It is made up of 6 provinces along the “heel” of Italy’s boot, and spans 500 miles of coastline! Ah, I can imagine the rolling hills, beautiful beaches, and brilliant blue seas now.
Puglia does have some similarities with its nearly land-locked neighbor Basilicata [Tour of Italy in the Kitchen, Part 6], namely in the fresh farms and olive trees, as well as the favorite pasta shape, orecchiette. But as we’re finding out, Italy is much more than the local pasta.
With garden-fresh vegetables and fruits, and abundant coastline, Puglia is sometimes referred to as the “California of Italy” (or perhaps California is the “Puglia of the United States”!). Local fishing and seafood is incredibly abundant, especially sea bass, mussels, octopus, and sea urchin. One dish that’s very unique to the region is called “Tiella ala Barese,” in which mussels, potatoes, vegetables, Arborio rice, and Pecorino cheese bake together in an earthenware pot. Delicious and nourishing!
Many Pugliese dishes are vegetarian too! Local beans provide an excellent base for “Ciceri e Tria” (chickpeas and tagliatelle) and “Fave e Cicoria” (fava bean with wild chickory). Nearly all dishes also incorporate simple herbs, garlic, fresh lemon juice, and of course are gently garnished with a drizzle of olive oil.
The region, however, is famous for two particular delicacies – beautiful red wines and burrata cheese.
The sun and soil in Puglia help produce extraordinary grapes for wines. It’s most popular grape, the Primitivo, is quite similar to a Zinfandel grape. They produce a lovely, luscious wine that pairs wonderfully with the region’s cheeses, vegetables, and breads.
Burrata cheese is one of the most succulent fresh cheeses you can find. It only came about around the 1920’s, invented in the small town of Andria in Murgia, Puglia. The cheese is made in a similar style to mozzarella, but instead of a solid cheese it’s stuffed with cream and shreds of mozzarella. Burrata even means “buttered” in Italian – how delicious! Its popularity has increased drastically, but it is still considered a luxury ingredient. Burrata is best served with fresh, succulent summer tomatoes, a generous drizzle of quality EVOO, and a grind of salt and pepper. Mouthwatering perfection.