Apulian cuisine is linked to this land
in all its expressions: from lamb to horsemeat, from fish
to vegetables, basic ingredients of a country cuisine based
on simple tastes.
The lion's share is played by pasta,
strictly home-made by housewives with semolina: orecchiette,
strascinate and cavatelli epitomise the handicraft of these
women that marries to the most varied ingredients of Apulian
gastronomic traditions. Traditional orecchiette or strascinate
can be tasted with turnip tops, fresh tomato sauce served
with cacioricotta, a seasoned goat's milk ricotta cheese grated
on pasta, or meat sauce, in addition to shrimps, mussels,
clams, and cuttlefish and fish soup.
By using simple ingredients, simple
and savoury dishes are prepared such as the so-called "gnumeredde",
lamb offal prepared as roulades and barbecued. Besides, traditional
cuisine is very much based on pulses; commonly known as the
meat of the poor, pulses are among the pillars of Apulian
This gastronomic tradition is epitomised
by fava bean purée served with wild chicory, a dish
of simple taste that will certainly win the most demanding
gourmets; apparently, even Pythagoras loved it. Last but not
least, Apulian cuisine relies much on fish that must be traditionally
eaten fresh and sometimes even alive in order to preserve
its taste and nutrients.
Mutton and horse meat are also part
of the tradition, in addition to roasted lamb with potatoes
or the so-called hot horsemeat sauce that is typical of Salento.
Also very common are lamb's heads coated with breadcrumbs
and pecorino cheese and kebabs of sausages, chicken wings,
gnumeredde and roulades stuffed with cheese, mozzarella and
ham, typical of Valle d'Itria. Quite often butcher's shops
arrange tables where customers may drink wine and eat kebabs,
fresh bread and cheese.
Strictly related to the breeding, the
production of dairy products represents in fact a strength
of Apulian cuisine: cacioricotta, mozzarellas, burrate, caciocavalli
and ricotta forte are guaranteed on Apulian tables and are
mostly common in the Murgia area, the former homeland of transhumance.
Last but not least, the abundance of
fish. Apulian coasts are the longest in Italy and thus fishermen
have the opportunity to fish in the Adriatic and in the Ionian
Sea alike. In Apulia it's a tradition to eat fish when it's
fresh, sometimes even alive so as to preserve its taste and
nutrients. Shrimps, dormice, cuttlefish and squids are excellent
for frying, whereas mullets, dentex, sea basses, giltheads
and grey mullets are very savoury when grilled or baked in
foil. Don't forget seafood: mussels, clams, oysters and sea
urchins are commonly eaten uncooked on the rocks, often accompanied
only by lemon juice, or cooked in sauces.
Worth mentioning is the so-called "tiana
di riso, patate e cozze" (rice, potato and mussels),
the big number of Bari tradition, which consists in filling
the tiana, a terracotta pan, with progressive layers of potatoes,
mussels and rice; the dish is then seasoned with garlic, oil,
Cayenne peppers and parsley and then baked.
Noteworthy is octopus fishing for it
is the protagonist of a peculiar rite: once captured, the
octopus is 'curled' on the rocks, that is it is repeatedly
knocked against the rocks so as to make nervous fibres relax
and eliminate all bitter fluids. This way it will become extremely
tender and could be actually eaten uncooked. Hence, the strength
of Apulian cuisine lies in the great variety of products and
local dishes, which are the result of the melting pot of cultures
and habits imported by foreign settlers over the centuries
and adopted by local people.