How to cook, and eat, like an Italian: a foodie week in Puglia | Travel

We walk into the massive kitchen and Aldo, the chef, announces that he can tell at a glance who does the cooking at home. He’s not talking about me. My husband exudes calm, Aldo says. He has, it seems, the look of someone who can stand the heat. Stung by this, I’m determined to prove Aldo wrong, and outshine my husband.

We’ve come to Puglia with our teenage daughter, to cook like locals at Borgo Egnazia cooking school. On today’s menu is orecchiette, classic Puglian pasta shaped like little ears.

We start with semolina flour. “So much better for you than 00 flour,” says Aldo. “It’s high in protein – and melatonin, which is why people feel sleepy afterwards.”

Eggs are not used in Puglian pasta. We add water, little by little, until we have firm dough (think Play-Doh), roll it into thin snakes, snip it into tiny pieces. Then Aldo shows us the rapid movement necessary to shape the ears – a thumb print and a little flick. Women in the region’s capital, Bari, turn this movement into a kind of street theatre, pressing out hundreds of “ears” every minute to sell to hungry tourists.

Harriet and her daughter with aprons on at the cookery school

Aprons on … Harriet and her daughter at the cookery school

Pasta ready, we fold and skewer thin slices of steak around crumbs of dry cheese, make meatballs – polpette – and cook them in ragu while Aldo talks lyrically about Sunday lunch at his grandmother’s. Then we eat what we’ve cooked. Food doesn’t get much more simple or…

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