Puglia on a plate - traditional recipes from Italy's heel


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Puglia's cuisine is deeply steeped in the region's agricultural tradition and an instinct for self-sufficiency. As such many of the most representative dishes have their origins in "cucina povera", making use of whatever is at hand or that can be picked from the garden or even the hedgerow! A classic example of this is Puglia's signature dish, orecchiette con le cime di rapa, pasta cooked with turnip greens. Simple in the extreme but absolutely delicious!

Freshness of ingredients is all-important as is the their provenance: people cook overwhelmingly with locally produced or reared foodstuffs such as durum wheat, tomatoes, artichokes, fava beans, courgettes, beans, fennel, peppers, onions, seafood and lamb.

The recipes that appear below represent the finest and most traditional examples of Puglia's culinary palate. We hope you will try them, love them and keep coming back for more - this page is destined to grow and grow!



Peperoni al forno

(Succulent baked peppers)

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 peppers (green and red)
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2tbsps capers
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
8tbsps breadcrumbs
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place the peppers in a hot oven for about half an hour until the skins start to blacken. Take out, leave to cool and then peel off the skins. Chop the peppers into strips, about 2 inches wide. Grease the bottom of an oven tray with olive oil and start layering the peppers. On the top of each layer throw in a few capers, a few slices of garlic, some of the chopped anchovy fillets, a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little salt and pepper. When the top layer is finished, drizzle with olive oil and one last layer of breadcrumbs. Then place in a hot over for about 15-20 minutes, until the peppers are soft and succulent. It is excellent as a hot side dish to lamb or chicken, or can be served cool as part of a mixed platter of antipasti.


Melenzane ripiene

(Stuffed aubergines)

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 aubergines
50g breadcrumbs
4 teaspoons of grated pecorino cheese
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A bunch of basil
4 anchovy fillets
2 tins of chopped plum tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Cut your aubergines in half lengthways, place in a pan of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes and then take out.
When they are cool enough to handle, scoop most of the pulp and chop up. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and gently fry the garlic. Then add the anchovies, letting them melt, and then add the chopped aubergine pulp for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, season, tear in a handful of basil leaves and leave to cook on a low heat until you get a thickish sauce.

While the sauce is cooking away, heat the oven to about 220, place the aubergine on a slightly oiled baking tray and, when the sauce is ready, spoon it into the aubergines. Top liberally with the pecorino cheese and place in the oven for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with a little more torn basil and serve.

Polpi in umido

(Stewed octopus)

Ingredients (serves 4)
500g octopus cut into smallish pieces (ask your fishmonger to clean and cut up for you!)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 sprig of rosemary
Extra virgin olive oil
1 glass white wine
200g ripe tomatoes, chopped
A handful of parsley
Salt and pepper

Ask your fishmonger to clean and chop the octopus into chunks and strips. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add your chopped garlic and the sprig of rosemary. After a couple of minutes, take out the rosemary (it will flavour the oil quickly) and add the octopus. Sautée it gently for a few minutes and then add the wine. Burn off a little of the alcohol and then add the chopped tomatoes. Mix well, season to taste and then cover with a lid and leave to cook slowly on a low heat for around an hour and a half (checking that the liquid remains - if not add a little boiling water occasionally). When cooked, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with a little fresh bread as a starter.

Alici arraganate

(Anchovies au gratin) 

Ingredients for 4 people
500g fresh anchovies, cleaned
60g yesterday's bread
1 clove of garlic
a small bunch of parsley
1 tsp capers (unsalted)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Ask your fishmonger to clean and open the anchovies like a book. Wash and dry them. Dribble a little olive oil into an earthenware oven dish  and lay the anchovies skin-down to cover the bottom. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Put the bread, the garlic, the parsley, the oregano, the capers and the vinegar into a blender and mix until you have moist breadcrumbs. Season with a little salt and pepper and put on top of the anchovies. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes at around 180°C and serve with a glass of white wine and a little mixed salad.

Polpette di melanzane

(Fried aubergine balls) 

Ingredients for 4 people
3 large aubergines
2 tsp capers
A few basil and mint leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan or salty ricotta cheese
1 clove of garlic
A plate of breadcrumbs
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Wash and slice the aubergines and then place into salted boiling water. When soft, take out and drain, applying some pressure to ensure that most of the moisture is drained out. Chop into smaller pieces and place in a food blender with the capers, the garlic, the basil and mint, the cheese, salt and pepper and one egg and mix, but not too finely. If the mixture is too liquid, add some breadcrumbs. Shape into balls about the size of a billiard ball, pass through the beaten egg and roll in seasoned breadcrumbs until totally covered. Then fry in hot olive oil until golden brown. When cooked, place on kitchen roll to get rid of any excess oil and serve with a dipping sauce or two. A hot, tomato and chilli sauce is recommended.

This recipe has been adapted from "Il Gusto del Tacco" a wonderful book of Puglian recipes available in English, by Anna Maria Chirone Arnó.


Pasta dishes and soups

Tubettini con le cozze

(Small pasta tubes with mussels)

Ingredients (serves 4)
500gr mussels
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A little dried, crushed chili pepper
1 glass of dry white wine
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
A handful of chopped parsley
400gr tubettini pasta (little tubes)

Wash the mussels well under running water and pull out the beards (the stringy bits hanging out of the shell). When ready, leave in a bowl of cold water.

Heat a pan of water for the pasta and when it comes to the boil add salt and the little pasta tubes. While the pasta is cooking, put some olive oil in a large pan and add the chopped garlic. After a couple of minutes add the cherry tomatoes and once these have softened a little add the white wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol evaporates. Taste and season with salt and pepper and add the mussels. Cover with a lid and leave for a couple of minutes until the mussels have opened.

By this point, the pasta should be nicely al dente. Strain, but keep a little liquid back in case you need to loosen the sauce, and add the pasta to the mussels, along with the chopped parsley. Mix well on a low heat for a minute and serve.


Minestrone di fave con cicoria

(Fava bean soup with chicory)

Ingredients (serves 4 people)
400g dried fava beans
800g chicory
1 clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A light spinkle of chili pepper flakes

Leave the fava beans to soak overnight or for however many hours recommended on the packet. When you come to cook, drain them and place in a pan.  Cover with water, season and leave to cook at a gentle bubble for around 3-4 hours or until they have begun to mash. Then pass through a sieve, place in a pan with a little oil and a little water if really thick.

Wash the chicory, cut roughly and add to a tall pan with some olive oil and the clove of garlic chopped into smallish pieces). Season and add a little sprinkle of chili flakes, mix well and cover with a lid. Cook on a very low flame until the chicory is soft. Separate the chicory from the liquid and get ready to serve. Ladel the fava bean soup into bowls and top with a spoonful of chicory. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and sit down to a hearty, warming winter feast!


Orecchiette con sugo alla ricotta forte

(Orecchiette pasta was tomato sauce and ricotta forte cheese)

Ingredients (serves 4 people)

400g orecchiette
250g tomato passata
A few leafs of basil
150g ricotta forte
1 tsps chilli paste
1 smallish onion
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Chop the onion finely and gently fry until soft. Add the tomato passata, mix well and leave to cook on a low flame for about 10 minutes. After this time, add the ricotta forte and mix well so it amalgamates fully with the sauce. Add a teaspoon of chilli paste, mix well and take off the heat.

Cook the orecchiette in salted water until al dente. When ready, drain, add to the sauce and toss on a low heat, tearing in some basil as you go. You are now ready to serve up!


Capello da Gendarme

(Gendarme's Hat - a speciality of Lecce, basically a pie filled with vegetables, pork, pasta, eggs and cheese... not for the faint-hearted!)

Ingredients (for 4 people – with plenty left over for the next day!)

For the pastry
350g self-raising flour
2 tbsp olive oil
A pinch of salt

For the filling
250g aubergines
250g courgettes
200g small pasta such as maccheroncini
200g pork sausage meat
4 hard-boiled eggs
100g mozzarella cheese (bufala is even better!)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Pass the flour through a sieve and then form into a well shape. Add the oil and the salt and mix well. If it is too dry, add a little warm water. Keep kneading and working the dough you have a nice ball that is not too sticky (add a little more flour if this is the case). Then cover with a tea-towel and leave to rest for about 1 hour.

While the pastry dough is resting, you can start work on the filling. First, wash the vegetables and cut into smallish cubes. Place the aubergine pieces in a colander, sprinkle with salt, cover with a weight and leave in the sink for about half an hour to extract any excess liquid.

When the aubergine is ready, add to the courgette and fry in olive oil until golden all over. Take out and place on some kitchen roll to remove any excess oil. Then, gently sauté small chunks of the sausage meat in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes. Don’t leave it too long as they will be fully cooked later.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just al dente. Drain well and mix with the aubegines, courgettes and sausage meat.

Hard-boil and then slice some eggs and break the mozzarella into small chunks. Now all your ingredients are ready!

Roll out the pastry into an oval until it is a little less than 1cm thick. Then, on one half add all the ingredients (aubergines and courgettes, sausage meat and pasta, hard-boiled eggs, and, on top, mozzarella). Season to taste and then fold the second half over on top. Seal the edges with a beaten egg or a little water, crimp well and place onto a baking tray covered with oven-proof paper. Place in a pre-heated oven (about 200 C) and cook for about half an hour, or until the pastry is cooked and browned.


U Tridde

(Fresh pasta in a turkey broth, typical of Locorotondo inn the Valle d'Itria)

Ingredients (for 5-6 people)

For the pasta
500g durum wheat flour
4 eggs
100g pecorino cheese
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

For the broth
1 turkey leg
1 carrot
1 onion chopped in half
1 stick of celery
2 cloves of garlic
1 large glass of white wine
2 litres water
salt and pepper

For the pasta: place the flour on your work surface or on a large wooden chopping board and make a whole in the middle. Add the eggs, the cheese, the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Then start the mixing with your hands, gradually creating a homogenous dough. Once this has been obtained cover in clingfilm and place in the fridge.

For the broth: add all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Cover and leave for around 2 hours, topping up with water and checking for seasoning as you go. When it is ready, strain and flake bits of the turkey back into the broth.

When the broth is almost ready, take your pasta out of the fridge , place on a floured work surface or wooden board and roll out with a rolling pin until you obtain a flat expanse of pasta about 2-3mm thick. Then cut into 2cm-wide strips and then into small squares (about 2cm by 2cm). Add to your gently simmering turkey broth and cook for a couple of minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley, a little grated pecorino cheese and a bottle of Locorotondo DOC white wine!

Ciceri e tria

(Tagliatelle with chick peas)

Ingredients for 6-8 people
500g chick peas
500g fresh egg tagliatelle (called tria in Lecce and around)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small stick of celery
Salt and pepper

Soak the chick peas in water the night before (for about 12 hours) adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. In a large pan, heat some olive oil, gently fry the onion and then add the tomatoes, the chickpeas and the bay leaves. Cover with ample water, season and leave to cook slowly until the chick peas soften. Then add about 400g of the pasta. While this is cooking, take a frying pan, heat some olive oil and gently fry the remaining pasta. Serve the chickpeas and pasta first, adding a few pieces of crunchy fried tagliatelle on top.



(Potato, vegetable and mussel bake) 

Ingredients for 5-6 people
250g potatoes
250g courgettes
250g aubergines
500g  mussels
50g grated pecorino cheese
2-3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
50g breadcrumbs
100g rice
2 tbsp capers
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Peel the potatoes, wash and slice thinly. Do the same with the courgettes and the aubergines.  Put some oil in an oven dish and add the chopped onion, tomato and parsley. On top of this place a layer of potatoes, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese, and then add a layer of aubergines and courgettes and a few capers. Add a layer of rice (uncooked) and then the mussels (debearded and scrubbed previously). Finally, add another layer of potatoes. Season, sprinkle with oregano, add a final touch of tomato and some breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and add enough water to cook the potatoes and rice. Place in a hot oven and leave to cook until you can easily slice through the layers with a knife. By this time the top should be golden brown.


Orecchiette con le cime di rapa

(Pasta with turnip tops)

Ingredients for 4 people
500g orecchiette (the traditional ear-shaped pasta of Puglia)
1kg washed turnip greens without the stems
1 anchovy fillet
Chili pepper
Gently boil the turnip greens in salted water. When cooked, take out, keeping the water to cook the orecchiette in. In a large frying pan, gently brown the garlic in a little olive oil and then add the turnip greens and the anchovy fillet. Mix well and leave to cook for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile cook the orecchiette in the turnip green water until al dente. Drain, add to the frying pan and mix well for a couple of minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and a little chili pepper.



Meat and vegetarian second courses

Un Trionfo d'Estate

(A summer feast of vegetables)

Ingredients (for 6 people)

4 medium-sized courgettes (zucchini)
2 medium-sized aubergines (eggplants)
2 peppers, one red, one yellow
300g green beans
250g peas
4 tomatoes on the vine
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil (preferably Puglian!)
2 cloves of garlic
Sweet and sour vincotto or if not available balsamic vinegar
5/6 leaves of basil
Courgette flowers

Wash all the vegetables and then cube all except the courgettes (cut into fingers)  and the tomatoes into semi-circular segments. Cook the beans for 5-6 minutes in well-salted boiling water. When ready, take and cook the peas in the same water. In a non-stick frying pan, add a generous dribble of olive oil and the cloves of garlic, crushed. Once hot, add the courgettes on a high flame for a minute, season and then turn down the heat for five minutes. Then remove from the pan and add the cubed peppers, which should be cooked al dente. When ready, remove and add the aubergine. When these are cooked and soft, add all the vegetables together into the pan, along with the green beans, peas and tomatoes. Mix well, season to taste and tear the basil into the mix. Then spray with a little vincotto or balsamic vinegar and cook for a couple of minutes.

Take off the heat and leave to cool before serving. 

This recipe is by Anna Maria Chirone Arno', chef, cookery teacher and food writer.


Stuffato di agnello e piselli

(Lamb and pea stew)

Ingredients (4 people)
800gr lamb, cubed
400gr peas (frozen if new peas not available)
3 cloves of garlic, whole
1 large onion, chopped
100ml white wine
1 glass of water
1 handful of parsley and mint, chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a large casserole dish, heat some olive oil and brown the lamb. Add the onion and when this is soft, add the white wine. Let the alcohol evaporate and then add the garlic,  the water, the mint and parsley and the vinegar. Season to taste, cover with a lid and place in the oven at a low temperature. Leave to cook for around an hour and a half, checking occasionally to make sure the ensure it doesn't become dry. If it does, add a little more water. After this time, add the peas, stir well, cover again and place back in the oven for around 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread or boiled, minted potatoes.


Bombette di maiale

(Thin-cut slices of pork filled with cheese and other goodies)

Ingredients (for 4 people)
16 thinly-sliced medallions of either pork loin or pork butt (from near the neck). Each piece should be about 8cm x 8cm so you may need to trim.
100gr grated cheese (Parmesan, pecorino or other) or little chunks of a melting cheese
150gr cured ham chopped into little chunks or minced beef or sausage meat
A sprig or two of rosemary
A handful of finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Lay out the pieces of pork and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little parsley and rosemary on top and then add a teaspoon of grated cheese/or chunks of melting cheese and a little cured ham. Close up each piece into a little ball and put onto a skewer (which should keep them closed up).

Take outside to a charcoal barbecue and in 10 minutes you'll have some wonderfully tasty little bombs to impress your friends with!


Agnello e patate al forno

(Roast lamb and potatoes)

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry people!)
8 thick-cut lamb chops
4 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
A couple of sprigs of rosemary
600gr potatoes, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
300gr cherry tomatoes
A good handful of breadcrumbs
1 large glass white wine
Salt and pepper

Heat some olive oil in a flame-proof casserole dish and quickly brown the lamb chops. Take out, and then gently fry the onions until soft. Put back the lamb chops and add a little rosemary, the cherry tomatoes (halved) and the cloves of garlic (whole). Mix together well and add the wine, making sure to burn off the alcohol. Then add the sliced potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and then cover with warm water. Place in a medium oven for about 30 minutes (making sure it never dries out), or until the potatoes are nice and soft. Then cover with breadcrumbs and place under a grill until these are toasted golden-brown.

Fiori di Zucca Ripieni di Villa Elia

(Stuffed courgette flowers)

Ingredients (for 4 people)
12 courgette flowers
2 boiled potatoes
1 handful of grated pecorino cheese and 1 of Parmesan
1 teaspoon of marjoram
A few spoons of breadcrumbs
A little olive oil
1 egg

Mash the boiled potatoes and add the grated cheese, the marjoram and the beaten egg, mixing well. Fill the courgette flowers with the mixture, place in a baking tray, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Then place in a medium-hot oven until the breadcrumbs are toasted and crunchy.

This recipe is reproduced with the kind permission of Raffaella Curiel, whose book, Lo Stile in Cucina (excerpt below), includes the above recipe, dedicated to Villa Elia




Fish and seafood second courses

Cozze alla Tarantina

(Mussel soup Taranto-style!)

Ingredients (serves 4 people)
1kg mussels
Optional: 100g clams
200g tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1 chili pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large glass of white wine
A handful of chopped parsley
1 slice of toasted white bread per person
Salt and pepper

Wash and clean the mussels (and clams if you choose to add these), making sure to pull out all the beards. Skin the tomatoes (placing them in boiling water for half a minute to soften the skins) and chop. In a large pasta pan, put some olive oil, the chopped clove of garlic and half a chopped chili pepper (or more if you like it hot!). Then add a splash of white wine and once the alcohol has evaporated, add the tomatoes. Salt and pepper and when bubbling nicely, add the mussels (and clams) and cover with a lid. After about a minute, the mussels should be open. If not wait a little longer until they are. Then, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve with some crusty toasted bread.


Zuppa di Pesce alla Gallipolina

(Gallipoli style fish soup)

Ingredients (for 4 people) 
700g mix of grouper and white seabream filleted and cut into chunks
200g king prawns
1 cuttlefish, cleaned and cut into rings
300g mussels
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 glass of white wine
1 bunch of parsley
2 tins chopped, peeled tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

The first thing you need to do is to ask your fishmonger to clean, descale and fillet all your fish and the cuttlefish for you. This makes life a lot easier!

Back in the kitchen, chop your onion and gently fry in olive oil in a large pan along with the clove of chopped garlic. Then add the two tins of chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and cook slowly with the lid on until the tomatoes have mashed. At this point, add the cuttlefish rings and a handful of chopped parsley, cover, and cook for around 10 minutes, being careful not to stir or mix. Add the glass of white wine and, when this is bubbling gently, add the grouper and the white sea bream on top. Season again, put the lid back on and cook for another 10 minutes. Finally, add the peeled prawns and the debearded, washed mussels. Replace the lid once more and after about 5 minutes the mussels should have opened and the prawns cooked. If the soup gets too dry during the cooking process, add a little boiling water (though this is not a very liquid soup).

Sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve hot with some crusty bread and a crisp white wine. 


Timballo di patate, riso, zucchine e cozze

(Timbale of potatoes, rice, courgettes and mussels)

Ingredients (for 6 people)
1kg mussels
200g rice
500g courgettes
1kg  potatoes
A dozen cherry tomatoes
1 large onion
A large handful of freshly chopped parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A handful of breadcrumbs

Clean and scrape the mussels, making sure you pull out their beards and put them in a frying pan with a few leaves of parsley, a cherry tomato, a piece of garlic, some olive oil and a little white wine. Put on a high flame and cover. When the mussels are open (approx. 2-3 mins) drain off the liquid and save for later.

Slice the potatoes, courgettes and onions, halve the cherry tomatoes, finely chop the garlic and the parsley and soak and drain the rice. Using half of each of the ingredients, layer them in a flame proof casserole dish in the following order: sliced onion, a little oil, potatoes, courgettes, the best of the opened mussels, rice, tomatoes, pepper, garlic, chopped parsley, a little oil; repeat the layers finishing with the potatoes and lastly add the liquid that you drained from the mussels. If necessary add enough water so that it reaches half way up the oven dish.

Cover the casserole dish with a sheet of aluminium foil, place it on a moderate flame for about twenty minutes, sprinkle with some breadcrumbs and then transfer it to a pre-heated oven 200 ° for thirty minutes.

This recipe comes from "Il Gusto del Tacco" a wonderful book of Puglian recipes available in English, by Anna Maria Chirone Arnó.





(Mini fried gnocchi with honey) 

Ingredients for 6-8 people
500g durum wheat semolina flour
500g honey
250g toasted almonds
100g pine nuts
150g extra virgin olive oil to bind the paste
grated mandarin orange skin
oil for frying
a small glass of anisette mixed with cognac
1 glass of Strega liquor or other
1 sachet of vanilla powder
a glass of mandarin orange juice
a handful of hundreds and thousands for decoration

Heat the oil with the whole mandarin skin in a small frying pan. Put the flour and the vanilla powder on to the pastry board and pour the squeezed mandarin orange juice in to the middle along with the cooled oil flavoured with the mandarin skin and the liquor and bind together. If necessary, add more orange juice. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes and then make long rolls about 2cm diameter with the mixture. Then cut the rolls into small pieces, about 2cm long. Heat a good dose of olive oil in a pan and fry the “purcedduzzi” a few at a time. When cooked leave to dry on some kitchen paper. After frying the last “purcedduzzi”, pour the honey flavoured with the cinnamon into a pan and heat on a low flame, add the “purcedduzzi”, the toasted almonds and stir carefully, leaving them on the heat for a short time. Transfer to a large plate and decorate with hundreds and thousands and pine nuts. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then tuck in!

This recipe comes from "Il Gusto del Tacco" a wonderful book of Puglian recipes available in English, by Anna Maria Chirone Arnó.


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