The size of the orecchiette varies depending on where you are. “Near Bari, they’re very tiny, like contact lenses,” said Silvestro Silvestori, who owns the Awaiting Table Cookery School in Lecce, in the Salento, the lower part of the region. “Sometimes they’re as big as bottle caps farther south.”
And different cooks prefer different flour blends. Mr. Silvestori uses a mixture of two-thirds hard wheat semolina, one-third barley flour for his orecchiette, which is one of Italy’s few fresh pastas made without eggs.
Rosa D’Angella, who works in the kitchen at the Tormaresca winery in Minervino Murge, the largest privately owned wine estate in Apulia, makes her orecchiette with only semolina. She said the pasta was a typical Sunday lunch at home, served with cima di rape or horse meat ragù.
There is even a tradition for making the pasta with grano arso, or burned wheat. Supposedly, the poorest of the poor in the region would glean the wheat that was left after the harvest when the fields were burned. In Altamura, near Bari, which is famous for its hearth-baked bread, the workers gathered any flour left on the floor of the oven and used it for pasta.
Grano arso, which is used in some restaurants, gives the pasta a khaki color and a nutty flavor. In New York, Mr. Marzovilla’s chefs at I Trulli toast their own. You can now buy grano arso in Apulia; in fact, it’s more expensive than regular flour. “People are no longer poor,” Mr. Silvestori said, “but…
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