The traditional cuisine of Apulia
Puglia is a destination rich in natural beauty, history, and traditions that are also reflected in its cuisine.
The regional cuisine of Puglia is made up of nuances and authentic flavors linked to the typical peasant and Mediterranean seafaring culture. Here you can find typical dishes of disarming simplicity, genuine specialties from land and sea that delight even the most demanding palates.
The food and wine culture of Puglia is therefore a mixture of flavors and aromas linked to local traditions and raw materials. A healthy and tasty cuisine, with dishes ranging from comforting land recipes to complex sea preparations where wine and olive oil occupy a place of honor wine and olive oil occupy a place of honor.
What to eat in Puglia
There are many traditional dishes of Puglia that we all know and love, from taralli to focaccia, from orecchiette to pasticciotto. Puglia's cuisine is very rich in flavors and some of them you just can't miss. Here is a selection of the 10 typical dishes of Puglia that you must try during your next vacation.
- Focaccia barese
- Orecchiette alle cime di rapa
- Spaghetti all'assassina
- Cozze e alici arraganate
- Tiella barese
- Taralli e Friselle
- Pane di Altamura
Puglia's traditional cuisine also satisfies people who follow a plant-based diet. There are many regional vegan specialties or easily made vegan-friendly.
Puglia's panzerotti can be described as a kind of fried calzone stuffed with mozzarella and tomato. The panzerotto has its origins in Puglia's poor cuisine when small half-moon-shaped turnovers with pieces of cheese and tomatoes were cooked with leftover bread dough. Today this is not the only version of panzerotto that can be found in Puglia and you can experience the most diverse fillings: ricotta, bacon, minced meat, turnip greens, provolone and various cold cuts but also in sweet version with chocolate, ricotta or jams.
Focaccia is a typical oven-baked leavened product from the Puglia region. Bari-style focaccia is a soft and crunchy bread made from a dough of semolina flour, boiled potatoes, salt, yeast, and water, which is baked in the oven. The most traditional version involves the focaccia being filled with cherry tomatoes and olives from Bari, but there are many imaginative and creative possible combinations (focaccia with potatoes, peppers, eggplants, onions, or even plain with coarse salt and rosemary sprinkled on top).
Orecchiette are a very popular pasta from Puglia, named after their characteristic ear-like shape. They are handmade pasta from durum wheat semolina and can be eaten fresh or dried, usually served with turnip tops, anchovies, and chili pepper. There are also many variations of the recipe which include land and sea sauces and condiments: broccoli and sausage, mussels and beans, sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta are just a few of the most popular recipes, and you can enjoy the taste of a good plate of orecchiette even with a simple tomato sauce.
Spaghetti all'assassina are a cult dish in Bari's gastronomy, more recent in origin. The recipe for the assassina dates back to the 1960s and is attributed to the chef of the trattoria Al Sorso preferito in the center of Bari, who turns it into a highly sought-after specialty of the restaurant.
The particularity of this dish lies in the cooking method: the spaghetti are not cooked in salted water and then drained, but rather sautéed with a broth of water, tomato puree, and plenty of concentrate. This process makes the spaghetti all'assassina crunchy and delicious. The recipe also calls for the classic sauté with garlic and a final sprinkle of chili pepper.
Fish dishes are among the most appreciated and well-known in Puglia, and mussels or anchovies arraganate are simple and delicious served as an appetizer or main course.
Arraganate means gratinated with breadcrumbs or stale bread crumbs. To flavor this filling, oil, garlic, parsley, salt, and often the addition of pecorino cheese and a glass of white wine are added.
The Tiella Barese is a traditional recipe made with rice, potatoes, and mussels. The tiella is baked in the oven, in a pan composed of 3 layers, one of mussels, one of rice, and one of potatoes (all strictly raw!), and seasoned with a bit of onion, cherry tomatoes, and grated cheese. A substantial and tasty one-dish meal.
Puglian cuisine is well-known for its cheese production, among which the beloved burrata stands out. It is a spun-curd cheese with a creamy heart and an intense flavor. The exterior of the burrata is similar to mozzarella but inside, the burrata has a full taste that recalls the flavor of cream.
This cheese is ideal for enhancing pasta dishes, salads, bruschetta, and, why not, on focaccia and pizza.
Taralli and Friselle are the most well-known and widespread baked goods from Puglia outside the region.
Taralli are unleavened pasta rings made from flour, water, wine, oil, and salt. Artisanal bakeries and now also supermarkets offer them in many flavors, including taralli with sun-dried tomatoes, anise seeds, fennel, pepper, or turmeric.
Friselle or frise, on the other hand, are nothing but ring-shaped toasted bread. After an initial baking in the oven, these rings are cut in half horizontally and placed back in the oven to become crispy. To be consumed, in fact, friselle must be softened with water or sauce.
You cannot talk about Puglian cuisine without mentioning bread among baked goods. Puglian bread is famous for its crispy crust and soft, fragrant crumb. We are talking about a product that has obtained the DOP mark and that is produced with re-milled semolina of durum wheat from the lands of the municipalities of Murgia and baked in a wood-fired oven.
Traditional Puglian cuisine mainly uses genuine local produce from the land, making it easy to find options for those following a plant-based diet. Here are a few:
- Focaccia barese, perfect for a snack and also an excellent lunch/dinner backup
- Orecchiette alle cime di rapa, still delicious without anchovies!
- Fav e fogghie, meaning broad beans and chicory, an iconic dish of Puglian poor cuisine
- Ciceri e tria, meaning fried pasta and chickpeas, a typical dish from Salento
- Cartellate, a typical Christmas sweet flavored with cinnamon and cooked wine
Puglian enogastronomy is also enriched by the presence of fine local wines mainly obtained from native grape varieties. The region has 4 DOCG wines and over 30 DOC. Among the most famous and appreciated wines are Nero di Troia, Primitivo, Bombino (white and black), Negroamaro, Malvasia nera and Aglianico, but there are many others, each with its own peculiarities, produced in different areas of the region.
Puglia produces excellent white, red, and rosé wines, both dry and sweet. Wine and food tasting experiences including visits to local wineries are increasingly popular in Puglia.
Olive and vine fields are the typical landscape of Puglia. In addition to the excellent wine production, Puglia is also the land of olive oil, a basic ingredient of the regional and Mediterranean cuisine. Puglian olive oil is famous worldwide for its intense and fruity flavor, capable of giving dishes a unique aroma.
Thanks to the characteristics of the clayey soil and the often dry climate, extra virgin olive oil produced in Puglia is a world-class excellence. Not surprisingly, just as for wine, real tastings are organized within farms and ancient masserie.
In conclusion, Apulian cuisine is a testament to the aromas of the land, history, and peasant and maritime traditions. It is a varied and tasty cuisine, characterized by the use of high-quality local products and excellent wines that can accompany and enhance the flavors of regional dishes.