The plains and gentle hills of Apulia provide plenty of farmland for grains, wine grapes and olives for oil. The rolling plains make for an ideal place to raise grazing animals, so kid and lamb are enjoyed frequently in Apulian cuisine. Pork, beef and poultry supplement these to give a wide selection of meats to choose from. Lamb meat or offal may be skewered and seasoned with bay leaves, salt pork and pecorino cheese before grilling over coals. Lamb, olives and sliced lampasciuoli are also wrapped in foil and baked to make agnello al cartoccio.
This land of plenty has most of its food provided by the many farmers, though seafood from the Adriatic and Ionian Seas provide some variety. The location in between the two sSeas ensures a steady supply of seafood for Apulian cooking. Oysters and mussels are the preferred shellfish, but octopus, squid, sea urchins and fish dishes are enjoyed as well. Ostriche alla tarantin, or oysters from the Gulf of Taranto, are baked with olive oil and fresh parsley after breading. Mussels might be baked with olive oil, parsley and lemon to accent their fresh flavor or cooked into a filling rice and potato dish seasoned with onions, tomatoes and grated pecorino. Fish, such as bream, are also roasted. Orata alla barese roasts fish with grated pecorino, garlic and potatoes. Even cuttlefish are baked after being stuffed with chopped squid and mussels and seasoned with grated pecorino, bread crumbs and capers. Zuppa alla tarantina is a peppery soup combining fish and shellfish and cooking them with tomatoes and spices, generally served with hot toasty garlic bread.
Apulian recipes use soups, stews, salads and pasta dishes as the preferred method of serving the many local vegetables. A thick soup called ’ncapriata is made from mashed fava beans, known as “the Queen of beans”, and bitter chicory. Chick peas are cooked into a noodle soup called ciceri e tria.
Other commonly eaten vegetables in Apulian cuisine include artichokes, many kinds of greens, brassicas and nightshades. The lampaschiuoli is a locally found bulb shaped vegetable. This vegetable is reminiscent of an onion but provides a bitter flavor unique to the area’s dishes. Eggplant is often enjoyed, either seasoned and grilled in slices or stuffed with savory fillings and baked.
With vast fields of wheat available, it is no wonder that pasta is a staple food in Apulian cuisine. Multiple shapes of maccheroni, spaghetti and lasagne are available. The unusually shaped orcchiette and cavatieddi, concave noodles, are generally served with tomato or vegetable sauces. Cavatieddi con la ruca is topped with a sauce of cooked arugula, tomatoes and pecorino cheese. With orecchiette con cime di rapa, the sauce is made from garlic, hot peppers and green turnip tops.
Rice is also a popular starchy food in Apulian cooking, especially when prepared in an earthenware dish called the tiella. Breadcrumbs are often cooked with when preparing tortiera, or casseroles. These stand in for cheese in many Apulian recipes.
The local bakers make focaccia and pizza with both wheat flour and potato variations. These savory baked goods include calzoni, panzerotti, calzuncieddi and sfogliate. These breads are wrapped around savory middles and either baked or fried. Another local bread are frisedde, crackers that are moistened before serving. These are topped with tomatoes seasoned with olive oil and oregano. Taralli are also very popular baked crackers.
Apulian recipes for desserts are often flavored with candied fruit, honey, almonds or ricotta. The half moon shaped bocconotti have marsala in the dough and have jam and cream put into them before baking. Ribbons of marsala flavored dough are fried in olive oil and covered with cinnamon and honey.
Colline di Brindisi PDO, Dauno PDO, Terra di Bari PDO, Terra d'Otranto PDO, Terre Tarentine PDO
Caciocavallo Silano PDO, Canestrato Pugliese PDO
Breads & Cereals:
Pane di Altamura PDO
Oliva da Tavola La Bella Della Daunia PDO
Limone Femminello del Gargano PGI, Clementina del Golfo di Taranto PGI