More than just wines, Puglia offers many agricultural products, among which extra virgin olive oil plays a key role. The local cuisine is often defined as peasant food, “cucina povera” because of the strong relationship with the rural culture.
Influenced by the ancient past, when a woman’s day was divided between the harvest and the daily management of the house, restaurant owners have rescued and enhanced quick and very simple traditional recipes like “pancotto” (made of stale bread) and “cecamariti” (based on leftover ingredients).
Cecamariti is a playful commentary on the marital relationship; its means to make your husband blind by serving something delicious that doesn’t require any hard work.
More than 40 varieties of vegetables give life to the “classic” dishes of Pugliese cuisine. But do not forget to add local wild vegetables, legumes and cereals. The result? Mashed fava beans with chicory, turnip tops and beans, cardoncelli mushrooms and chiklings.
Firm and fragrant, the cardoncello mushroom inspires most of the recipes of Murgia area where it grows naturally, as do wild chicory, thistle and lampascione (a golden colored wild bulb similar to an onion, enjoyed boiled or fried). Murgia also offers an abundance of turnips, beets and juicy fruits like table grapes and cherries. Asparagus, fennel, borage and mustards are typical products of Sub Daunia Apennines; while the kitchen gardens of Salento supply the vegetable market with cabbage, artichokes and very flavorful citrus.
Boiled or "stewed" – pan-fried in a bit of garlic and olive oil - turnip tips are a constant ingredient in Puglia cuisine. There is one more very common ingredient – “home made pasta” like: orecchiette (in dialect called strascenate or chiancaredde), cavatelli, capunti, troccoli, fricelli (or frescidd), lasagne (or sagne). These different pasta shape are the main ingredients in combination with vegetables or meat sauce, fish or shellfish sauces. Each of them creates different nuances of taste even if cooked only a short time.
With more than 800 kilometers of coastline, Puglia celebrates a rich culture and place of honor within seafood cuisine. Fish, cooked and raw, has a dedicated and detailed recipe book that draws on local seafaring traditions and modeled on daily caught fish. Inspired by the coastal resorts, recipes include: black mussels au gratin Taranto style, soups Gallipoli style, ciambotta soup Adriatic style and the famous "tiedda" Bari style (baked rice, potatoes and mussels).
The inland is a triumph of horse, pig, wild boar, and podolian cow, usually grilled in traditional wood ovens and served straight from the butcher shops (called “ready stove”) in the Murgia area. Among the meats, the delicious Capocollo of Martina Franca (cured pork meat) is a standout.
From North to South, Puglia is anchored to a strong tradition of baking that finds its best expression in the famous bread of Altamura, the only bakery product across Europe to have obtained the PDO recognition. Also renowned are cheese and dairy products like: mozzarella of Gioia del Colle, burratina of Andria, podolian caciocavallo of Gargano, the precious Canestrato of Corato and pecorino of Maglie. And for dessert an explosion of dainties surround the distinct flavor of almond paste.
Puglia’s famous cuisine might be called “cucina povera” but it is certainly rich in flavor.