From Puglia with love.
When Passepartout-Homes asked me to write a piece for their blog, I thought about what could be of interest to the readers and I’ve asked Passepartout Homes where the properties in the portfolio are located. Amongst all the beautiful and exotic locations, one popped up to my eye immediately, Otranto.
Otranto is in Puglia (Apulia) in the southern part of Italy, right at the bottom of the heel and more importantly for me it is where my mum is from.
I know what you are going to say now, the Italians and their mums. You may be right but I’m sure you’d fall in love with the place once you’ve had the chance to visit it.
Otranto is located in the Salento, a wonderful area still unspoiled by the mass tourism you may find in other more famous places in Italy.
La terra del Salento is the reason why I am so passionate about food.
I grew up in the north of the country, near Milan but as a kid, I used to spend the summer months with my relatives in Tuglie, a sleepy town some 40 kms from Otranto. I had the luck of getting to know this area and its treasures since an early age and still today I remember the hot summers spent visiting the dry countryside dotted with olive trees and the magnificent churches to beg for some shade more than for a miracle.
But more importantly, I had the chance of tasting probably the best food Italy has to offer since an early age.
The Salento is the land of olive oil and wine (the famous vini del salento). The olive oil has a clear, yellow, stray colour and an unmistakable aroma while the wines, especially the reds and the rosé enjoy the perfect warm and dry climate to fully express their potential. In particular the malvasia and above all the Negroamaro, “the blackest of the black” with soft tannins and notes of cherry.
But let’s also not forget the wonderful cheeses (pecorino, giuncata and ricotta forte) and the tasty sausages (salsiccia di Lecce, salsiccia with fennel seeds and more). Puglia is definitely your place if you are looking to enjoy food, sea and sun (oh, and great wine!).
If you are feeling peckish in the middle of the day while visiting around, my suggestion is to buy a frisella (basically a bagel made of durum wheat, cut in half and double baked). Soak it in water and then cover with some chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of salt, some capers and a good helping of local olive oil.
Enjoy this wonderful merenda (snack) under the shadow of a centenary olive tree and remember, when you do that, close your eyes and taste the moment (and the frisella!). Save it for when your holiday is finished and while at your desk at work you need to take shelter in your happy place. I’ve tried it and it works.
Of course you cannot visit Puglia and not try their trademark dish: orechiette con le cime di rapa (turnip top).
Orecchiette is an ear-shaped pasta (the name in fact means little ear) that goes wonderfully with vegetables sauces (but also with salsiccia!) although I think it they are just perfect with turnip top.
Cime di rapa or rapini are very common in Puglia during the winter and spring months. The sauce is made with anchovies melted in olive oil with garlic and the turnip top. Then the pasta is stirred in the pan with some chilli flakes.
I could eat this dish every day. I’m not exaggerating, I could literally have it for lunch and dinner (in fact I’m happy with caffe’ and croissant for breakfast). I love the bitter taste of the rapini and the kick from the chilli with a soft tone of the anchovies. The shape of the orecchiette is also perfect to hug all this beautiful ingredients in the sweetest embrace.
Another great dish from that region is pasta with sausage and broccoli. And a good alternative if you want to replicate a famous pugliese dish far from Puglia and you may find it difficult to find either the orecchiette and/or the cime di rapa.
For a quick recipe just follow this link and enjoy it!
By Roberto Castiglione, editor and writer at HolyF*caccia, a fresh new food blog.