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Gourmet Italy: what to eat and drink in Puglia

Bari and Lecce are the region’s key historic cities, followed by pretty hilltop whitewashed towns such as Ostuni, the coastal villages of Gallipoli and Otranto, and the rather touristy centres of Alberobello, Martina Franca and Locorotondo, which are close to the biggest concentrations of “trulli”, the strange, conical dwellings virtually unique to a small part of Puglia. Even more than other Italian regions, this is an area where you’ll stumble across great little restaurants and street food almost everywhere you go.

Regional specialities

Puglia’s typical pasta is orecchiette (“little ears”, after their shape), but the region is home to a host of other varieties that you’ll be hard pushed to find elsewhere, including troccoli, cavatelli, stacchiodde, curti, gruessi and more. Most are made with just flour and water, eggs having once been considered a luxury.

Orecchiette (Photo: AP/Fotolia)

The classic accompaniment to orecchiette is a sauce of cime di rape, literally “turnip tops”, but actually similar to a leafy broccoli. You’ll also find orecchiette and other pastas served with mussels (cozze), aged ricotta (ricotta forte or scanta), white beans (cicerchie), wild chicory, wild fennel, courgette flowers, and dark, nutty-flavoured grano arso (literally “burnt” grain).

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