The Apulian Region (La Puglia)

Il Gargano  Barletta  Adria & Trani  Bari  Taranto  Brindisi  Lecce

 

 

Puglia is the region located at the south-east end of the Italian Peninsula.
It comprises of six provinces: Foggia in the Gargano Peninsula, which is the region’s only mountainous area, Barletta, Bari and Brindisi in front of the Adriatic Sea,Taranto facing the Ionian Sea, and Lecce located in the Salento  Peninsula at the heel of the Italian boot, between the Ionian and Adriatic Sea.
The fertile land, the gorgeous weather, the hospitality of the natives has attracted friendly and hostile colonists.
This region was part of the Magna Grecia: the Greeks who lived there made it their homeland and left as their inheritance archeological treasures and the Griko, a dialect from archaic Greece, still spoken in many parts of Apulia.
There is an interesting itinerary in Puglia, starting with the coast of the Gargano Promontory to the plain that goes down to the heel of Italy, the Salentine Peninsula.
Livestock and farming are the main economical assets: pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, olives, including olive oil, grapes and wine production, fruits, and cereal, mostly wheat. Caciocavallo, Cannestrato, Scamorza, Ricotta, Fior di Latte are some of the regional cheeses, however the wheat produced in the area generate a large production of pasta, well known the Orecchiette and bread which are the basis of the region’s inhabitants diet.
Luscious, dark, crusty, and coarse-grain homemade bread made with the unique Apulian durum wheat and natural leavening agent, il lievito madre, it is baked all over Le Puglie.
The leaven or “lievito madre” requires a lengthy and skilled procedure: it is prepared with flour and water and kept in a warm place until it ferments. The fermentation is caused by the yeast, a microscopic organism that feeds on the flour, converting it into carbon dioxide and alcohol. To bake the bread this living yeast is added in the right proportion to flour, water, olive oil and a small amount of sugar, setting aside the same amount of the uncooked dough to be used for the next batch of dough. The leaven has to be kept at a constant and mild temperature and it has to be fed with additional flour and water every two weeks to keep the yeast alive.
The strain of the leaven varies from house to house and gives the baked bread different characteristics and taste.
The starter is handed down from generation to generation and in fact it is considered so valuable that it is part of the dowry to the newly wed.
Friselli and taralli are produced in the region and widely distributed.
Recently cement, steel, petrochemical and processed food industries have become important resources together with tourism which attracts German and Italian visitors to this region nicknamed “Italian Florida”.

  

Il Gargano

 

The mountains, trees, the smell of the sea and the shrubbery are combined with the perfect, enchanted and colorful landscape that forms the Gargano Peninsula.
The Tremiti Islandsare part of the Gargano province; theTremiti is an archipelago distant from the main land 22 miles. This series of islands are famous for underwater hunting and for the abundance of game fish, shellfish and the superior quality of lobsters.
TheGargano Peninsulais surrounded by the clean blue waters of the Adriatic Sea where many varieties of fish are found, its seaside resorts and tourist facilities are numerous, particularly around the two salt water lakes,Varano and Lesina that offer a large quantity of tasty fish, beaches, water sports, calm water and gentle climate.
TheGargano offers a suggestive and varied landscape, good hunting and points of architectural and cultural interest.
Tourism is booming: the beauty of the costal area, the green of the varied vegetation of the National Park, the Umbra Forest in the Gargano, the many Abbeys, Sanctuaries, the shrine dedicated to Archangel Michel inMonte Sant’Angelowhere also the Norman Castle, built in the XIII Century by the order ofFederico IIis located, attract numerous visitors.
The shrine of SaintPadre Piois located in the town ofSan Giovanni Rotondo: it is the second most visited shrine in the world and the destination of numerous pilgrims. Saint Padre Pio was declared a Saint in 2002.
The “Foresta Umbra“ is the richest game region of Italy. It shelters deer, wild boars, roe, which are small deer native of Europe and north Asia, weasels, woodpeckers and other small game, utilized in the local cooking.
On the west of the Gargano Mountain and going down to the Adriatic Sea, there is theTavoliere delle Puglie, aplain limited on the south by the Ofanto River. It’s a fertile area where wheat, tomatoes, grapes, beets and olives are grown. In the center of theTavoliere delle Puglieresides Foggia, the largest city and the capital of the province.
Vegetable gardens and herds of sheep can be seen scattered all over the countryside and in the many farms where fresh produce is harvested. Dairy and milk products of excellent quality are produced.
The game from the mountain, the seafood from the Adriatic and the farm produce give birth to a variety of cooking based on vegetables, grain (pasta), fish and meat to create typical dishes using old and simple recipes.
Handmadeorecchiette (ear shaped pasta) with broccoli rape,spaghetti allazappa terra, easily made with boiled pasta seasoned with a lot of garlic, red hot pepper and olive oil, fish dishes and soups, eels from the lakes, anchoviesarracanate, baked with breadcrumbs, garlic, capers, mint and fresh oregano, agnello alla Gargano (lamb chop baked in parchment paper with tomatoes, capers, anchovy fillets and mushrooms) are part of the local menu’. Clams, oysters and mussels are consumed fresh with lemon juice or cooked in a light tomato sauce.
Whole fish are grilled and served with lemon wedges and olive oil, squid are fried, stewed or baked, octopus is stewed in a tight covered pot; some prefer the squid, cuttlefish and octopus marinated and eaten raw.
Caciocavallo cheese andcanestrato, a hard cheese made from sheep’s milk are produced in large quantities.
The local extra virgin olive oil has a strong fruit flavor and mild taste; sausages and cured pork are produced by small and large manufacturers. The soft and extremely spicedsoppressata made in the region, the local cheeses and the homemade bread combine with a full-bodied red, dry wineRosso di Cerignolaor aSan Severo, create an insuperableantipasto and the beginning of an unforgettable meal.
Conclude your meal with a dessert: a sweet marzipan pasty, a fruit cake, a ricotta tart, or fritters dipped in grape must. At the end enjoy a glass oflemoncello liquor made with the lemons”Limone Femminello” that grows only in theGargano  Peninsula.

  

 

Barletta, Andria and Trani

 

The towns ofBarletta, AndriaandTrani, formally belonging to the province of Bari and some territories and towns belonging to the province of Foggia, changed into a province called Barletta, Andria and Trani, as of the year 2009.
The land south by theOfanto River is calledBasso  Tavoliere and is a continuation of theTavoliere delle Puglie.This fertile terrain produces wheat, grapes, beets, olives, all sorts of vegetables and fruits especially figs and tomatoes which are harvested in large quantities.
The salt mashes ofSanta Margherita di Savoiaare open salt mines and the town is a destination for spa aficionados to enjoy the healthy, salty and rich with iodinebagni di fango(mud bath) with the mud fetched from the salt flats. This quaint town offers hotels with spas, beautiful beaches and seaside resorts.
The towns ofBarletta and Trani are located in the Adriatic coast.
Barletta has a small commercial port and the local economy is based on the trade of agricultural products like grain, oil, wines, fruits, cheeses and of the modest production of textile and shoes. The tourist villageFiumara, five miles fromBarletta is a good economic advantage for the new province. It is an oasis where residents can enjoy a nice climate, beautiful landscapes, pools, the sea and a lifestyle of health and good living.
Trani located south ofBarletta has a fishing port which contributes to the economy of the city along with tourism and production of theMoscato di Trani, wines, almonds, wheat, figs, olives and olive oil.
Trani and Barletta have long and sandy beaches with small and large resorts from budget to luxury residences.
Andria is one of the most populated cities inApulia and it is a trading center for wine, olive oil, olives, wheat, almonds and the site of many pasta factories, winery andfrantoi (olive press stations).
Andria is near theCastello  Del Monte, a castle built in the XIII century by the will of Fredric the Second, who died in 1250. Beside theCastello  Del Monteother important buildings, churches and infrastructures are scattered in the city and in the surrounding area.
The cooking of the provinceBarletta  , AndriaandTrani,is typical of the Apulia region.
The food served in restaurants or made by housewives is astonishingly,full of flavor and very appetizing.
Theorecchiette with  broccoli rapeand/or tomato sauce are topped with gratedricotta forte, a young cheese similar to a primosale made with goat’s and cow’s milk. Theburrata is a fresh mozzarella on the outside and a creamy, mozzarella inside, with a fine texture and a buttery flavor. It can be served as an appetizer with their famous bread or with tomato and fresh local olive oil; also it is a good accompaniment to a mixed salad or a dish of pasta. Baked lamb withscamorza, eggs and cardoons or charcoal broiled pork and horse meat (a local specialty) are prepared for special occasions; in fact vegetables, legumes, cheeses, pasta and bread are staple food.
Vegetables are fried, broiled and boiled. Legumes are boiled or made in a puree and dressed with olive oil. The pasta is combined with vegetables, legumes and sauce in countless ways.
From the coastal area, the seafood and fish are sold and cooked the same day are caught and shipped right away to the inland towns or they can be bought from the fishermen on the waterfront of Trani.
Seafood and fish are prepared in many ways: broiled, boiled or baked, simply infused with olive oil and herbs and served with a plain salad so that the fine taste, the distinct texture and the delicate sea smell can be fully enjoyed.

 

Among the noteworthy wines theRosso di Barletta, made withUva di Troiaand theSangiovese, theMontepulciano; a dessert wine, the Muscat of Trani goes well with matured Pecorinocheese or thetenerelli which are almond cookies covered with chocolate.

 

 

Bari

 

Bari the region’s capital is the biggest city in Apulia and is located in the Adriatic coast.
The many remains of temples, relics, churches, castles, buildings and infrastructures testify to the diverse cultures and the many populations that occupied this city since pre-historic times.
Among the churches, theDuomo of St. Sabinus begun to be built in 1034 in Byzantine style, the Palatinate Church of St. Nicholas built in 1087, with the remains of the Saint Patron of Bari, it is the destination of Orthodox Catholic pilgrims from Eastern Europe.
The “Castello Svevo”, a Norman castle rebuilt by Frederick II, is used as a museum; Bari University (Universita’ degli Studi) and the Polytechnic University are very important institutions attended by Southern Italian students.
Gioacchino Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, restored part of the city named the Murattian Quarter: it is divided into rectangular blocks conveying to a long promenade by the sea, calledLungomare Nazario Sauroand it contains a shopping district and fancy boutiques.
Center of commerce, Bari is the sponsor of “La Fiera di Levante”, the Exposition of the East, it is a point of exchange with the Eastern European countries and the world. It specializes in agriculture and agricultural machinery, also it is an avenue for exchange and commerce for other industries.
Among the city of Bari famous sons areNiccolo’ PiccininiandGaetano Latillacomposers,Nico Perrone,a contemporary historian, Gaetano Salvemini, an antifascist who left Italy and organized a pressure group against Mussolini and later took refuge in the U.S.A. where he lectured History at Harvard University. Joseph Orlando, who came to the U.S.A. as an infant, became a director of Mad magazine and executive of DC Comics.
Also from Bari,Anna Oxaa singer,Nino Banfian actor andDomenico  Modugno a singer and song writer, author of the famous song “Volare”.
The fields of Bari produce a large quantity of wheat, vegetables and fruits, in particular grapes which explain the big production of wine and of the fruit of the olive trees which account for the huge production of quality olive oil.
Wheat, vegetables, along with lamb, pork, horse meat and seafood, jointly with excellent wine, good olive oil, cheeses, and cured meats are the staple food of the abundant and colorful cuisine of Bari.
Start your dinner with “Pulpe Rizze”, curled baby octopus, tenderized by beating it, served row, or “Allieve” smallseppie served row on ice, or fresh sea urchins, or the garlicky mussels made with wine, tomato, red and black pepper or some assorted salami and cheeses with the local crusty bread.
Bari and the whole region are famous not only for the bread but also for the baked specialties that are made with the addition of different ingredients to the basic dough and shaped in the widest various forms.
The famous sourdough bread ofAltamurra a small town near Bari, is made in small and large loafs up to 40 lb.
Tarallo bareseis sour dough kneaded with olive oil, baked in the shape of the Greek letter alpha; they are first boiled then baked. In Bari the taralli are without seeds, in Taranto with fennels, in Brindisi and Lecce with black pepper.
TheFrisello is made in the shape of a loaf with durum wheat and barley flour, baked, sliced and toasted at low temperature.
TheFrisa is made with sliced hard bread soaked in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, covered with sliced onions and tomatoes.
Follow with a dish of cavatelli with a vegetable sauce or orecchiette(ear shaped pasta) with broccoli rape or withBari’s Ragu’made with tomato, chopped pork, chopped veal, bracioli of horse meat, sausages and lamb; this assortment of meat is served after the pasta as a main dish.
Originally cooked in the town ofGravina, the “caldariello” is prepared in the whole region. It is lamb or kid stewed with wild fennels, parsley, goat milk, olive oil and one or two cloves of garlic, slowly simmered in a special pan called “caldaro”.
A typical local specialty is the baked “Tagiedda” a pot stuffed with a layer of rice and a layer of potatoes followed by chopped onions and parsley drizzled with abundant olive oil and topped with mussels, breadcrumbs, cheese and locked with an airtight lid so that the steam that built inside cooks the “Tagiedda”, without loosing the taste or nutrition values.
Typical desserts are theCarteddate, fried thin layers of pastry dough, covered with honey or must (cooked wine), theSusamelli rhomboid shaped cookies made with grounded almonds, walnuts, dry figs, orange peels and olive oil, also theCacciuni, a mixture of chickpeas flour, chocolate, must (cooked wine), sugar and cinnamon.
The town ofAlberobello, south of Bari is renowned for the famous “trulli”, small circular houses, built by laying limestone blocks without mortar or cement, with conic roofs embellished with a symbol against the “malocchio”, the evil eye.

 

Court yard

 

 

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 The CourtyardThe Pool

 

Taranto

 

Facing the Ionic Sea is the ancient city of Taranto, founded by the Spartans around 700 B.C. on land settled by the Cretans. The old section of the city was built in a peninsula that divides the commercial port situated in an inlet in the gulf of Taranto, called Mar Grande and on the other side of the isthmus the Mar Piccolo where a military naval base of strategic importance has been located since Taranto was established. Mar Piccolo also is where oysters are bred in large quantities with the same methods used by the Greeks 28 centuries ago. The Mar Piccolo is fed salt water by the canal to Mar Grande and fresh water from the numerous submarine springs, making the salinity of this lagoon ideal for the production of all kind of shell fish including mussels, sea urchins and clams. There are many varieties of fish here and they are harvested and shipped everywhere in Italy.
In the Mar Piccolo, atourist attraction is the pesca con lampara: it is a characteristic and traditional way for night fishing, using a large lamp, installed on the stern of a small boat, to attract the fish into the net or to catch them with a hand harpoon.
Agriculture, industry and commercial fishing are the most important local resources. Olive oil, wine, wheat, fruits and vegetables are produced in the hinterland, fish and food processing is thriving; oil refineries, steel foundries, chemical plants and shipyards are operating in the area around the seaport.
Two Doric columns are part of remains of the Greeks that lived in Taranto, and the ruins of amphitheaters, villas and thermal baths are evidence of the Roman dominion; castles, towers, fortifications, infrastructures tell the history of the many powers that competed for the administration of this city.
The food in Taranto is exceptional as is all over Apulia. Fish are abundant and prepared in “brodetto” (soup), broiled, baked or fried; oysters, mussels, clams, sea urchins are served fresh or baked or in sauce with pasta.
“The “zuppa di pesce Tarantina” is prepared with a large variety of fish and mollusks that are simmered slowly with wine, garlic, hot pepper and olive oil. “Bianchetto” baby fish is fried or cooked “au gratin”, “fravagghie” are assorted fried fish.
The fertile soil of Taranto‘s hinterland produces wheat, grapes, almonds and olives and many vegetables that are served as a side dish or as a first course. The most well-liked are the “lampascione”, a pleasantly bittersweet bulb that looks like a small onion, fava, broccoli rape, fennels, eggplants, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, spinach and green leafy vegetables are also grown here. Most of the vegetables and fruits are grown in the fertile “Valle d’Itria”, a luxuriant green valley that surrounds the town of Martina Franca and scattered with farms and “casedde”, small houses, the “trulli”.
“Chiancareddi” are home made “orecchiette”, ear shaped pasta cooked with broccoli rabe,linguine with seafood, homemade fusilli with spinach and ricotta, “pasta and fagioli” “fave e foghie”(fava and chicory leaves), homemade “taglioline” shaped like fettuccine served in a ragout of mussels or with peas and onions sautéed in lard and olive oil.
Because of the availability fish is the main source of proteins however pasta, bread and vegetables are very important elements in the local diet.
Game is mostly cooked with vegetables often served with polenta; lamb and pork are prepared in various styles: the lamb’s “torcinelli” are the innards flavored with parsley and garlic and slowly roasted and baked lamb with peas is a local specialty. Pork is mostly marinated and grilled or made into sausages and preserved.
Another delicacy is roasted “brasciole” made with horse meat rolled with red pepper, garlic and parsley: veal is served stewed, broiled or made into small aromatized sausages with herbs and cheese and roasted on a slow fire.
Fresh fruits are the preferred dessert although homemade sweets are prepared especially during holidays. “Carteddate” are honey covered fritters, reflecting the Greek legacy, “pettole” are fried pastries covered with sugar, or sprinkled with salt and stuffed with anchovies. Almond cookies and cakes, pasties and fruit tarts and Manduria, a sparkling dessert strong wine, can well conclude a special dinner. During dinner other local wine can be pleasantly sampled.

 

 

 

 

Brindisi

 

Brindisi is an important and rich city, since ancient times, for the position of its harbor and as a center for trade with the eastern Mediterranean regions, also for the copious agricultural products exported in the Italian peninsula and across the Adriatic Sea.
Brindisi was colonized by the Greeks and it became the choice city by the Romans, who used it as a military base with an army ready to promptly set sails to defend their interests or attack their enemy. Furthermore, being that this province was blessed with fertile soil, the abundant agricultural products were a good resource of military supplies.
To transport provisions, equipment and troops, a road, the Appian Way was built to connect Rome to Brindisi, which in time became a vital avenue for trade and commerce with the far away regions in the Black Sea and behind.
Today Brindisi is a port of call for travelers to Greece and Turkey and an important center for commerce and industry, in particular in the chemical-pharmaceutical industry, in the energy sector, and in the canning, freezing and preservation of alimentary products.
In this province, agriculture is well expanded with farming of a variety of quality fruits in large quantities, including grapes – both for wine and for table-, figs, almonds and the popone, small and oblong watermelons much sought-after for its legendary therapeutic qualities as a diuretic and as an anti-inflammatory of the digestive track. But as in most parts of Apulia and in Brindisi, the dinners are concluded with roe vegetables in season like celery, cucumbers, radishes, fennels or with plain boiled artichokes, rather than delicious fruits freshly harvested!...
Vegetables and cereals are cultivated in the countryside with the traditional intensive growing of olives, artichokes, almonds and tobacco, shipped to markets all over Italy.
Cattle and sheep raising is linked with the production of cheeses like thecaciocavallo, burrata, mozzarella, ricotta, ricotta forteandscamorza.
The cooking is based on the local produce and sea food, rather than meat dishes.
Li  pettuli” are fritters made withpastella, a batter used to coat before frying salted cod,baccala’, or anchovies, artichoke’s hearts, cauliflower or other vegetables, at times served as an antipasto, or stuffed with ricotta and honey or marmalade and offered as dessert.
Fish and sea food are baked or broiled and served with artichokes, asparagus, mushrooms or other fresh vegetables grown locally or cooked in the tasty ”Ciambotto” thezuppa di pescepresented with the local crusty hearty bread.
The “tijedda di riso” rice, mussels and potato is baked in the same method as in Bari; mussels are pickled, fried or “arrecanate”, baked with a lot of oregano.
Cavatielli, ravioli, and orecchiettewith broccoli rabe are very popular pastas; the “Caghiubbi”is hand made pasta rolled around a pit and served with a tuna fish sauce or with mussels and cabbage sauce. The “pasta al forno”,oven baked macaroni is made with ricotta, meatballs, sausages, mozzarella, cheese, and artichokes hearts. Stuffed eggplants, chicory withfava beans,
artichokes, green leafy salads, stuffed tomatoes are prepared in simple ways turning out tasty and savory dishes
Horse meat is stewed with pecorino cheese and celery, tripe’srollatini are stuffed with cheese, salami, liver than baked in a spice gravy, barbequed sausages, tender chunks of kid roasted in spits and called “gnummaredd” are other favorite dishes.
Bread is an important component of the local diet and is made with durum wheat, semolina, barley and other types of grains. The “puddica” also baked in Lecce, is a flat bread covered with olive oil, cherry tomatoes cut in half, garlic, oregano and salt.
Dry figs and oranges, quince and fig marmalade are specialties of this province andzucchine, tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, asparagus, eggplants and “lampascioni”, small wild onions are preserved either in oil, vinegar, or dried; olivescazzate, meaning cracked are preserved in oil, green olives conserved in brine.
Tarallo” is sour dough kneaded with olive oil, baked in the shape of the Greek letter alpha; they are first boiled covered with black pepper and then are baked. The “tarallini” are small “taralli” made with the addiction of wine and fennel seeds.
The abundance of almond trees has favored the production of many desserts made with almond paste as biscuits, pastries and cakes.
Mostacciuli, made with cooked wine and covered with chocolate,ncartiddate, are fritters covered with honey orvino cotto, other special sweets are prepared for the holidays.
Wines are strong and produced in huge quantities:Brindisi Rosso, Aleatico diPuglia are among the most preferred wines, included the “Malvasia Nera di Brindisi”,a dessert wine.

 

 

 

 

Lecce


 

At the heel of the boot of the Italian Peninsula, stretching to the East, washed by the Ionic Sea on the west side and the Adriatic Sea on the east, the Salento Peninsula comprehends the provinces of Brindisi, part of Taranto and in the end part the district of Lecce. The town of Lecce is called “the Florence of the south” because it is rich in architecture, art, and culture.
Lecce is located almost at the center of theSalento, twenty-five miles south of Brindisi, on the east about ten miles from the Adriatic and twenty miles from the Ionian Sea on the west. The city is rich of Baroque style churches, splendid fountains, a Castle built by Charles V in the 16th century, the “Torre  del Parco” a tower built in the 14th century, originally a court house now privately owned, an opera house the “Politeama” and other monuments; bringing to mind the Roman administration is an Amphitheater that stands in the center of the city and one of the Roman columns that marked the end of the Appian Way, it was given as a present by the city of Brindisi.
Other artifacts and traditions are reminiscent of the Greeks that lived in this area before Rome expanded in this region.
Spread in the entire province and going back to prehistory, there are manymenhirs, which are long stones, used as markers, also “specchie”, piles of different shaped rocks used for tombs or for lookouts and adolmen, a megalithic structure located atMelendugno, used as a tomb.
Ruins of pagan temples, majestic cathedrals, thousand years old infrastructures, modern highways, monuments and folklore evoke centuries of history and records from pre-historical times to our days. The Greek heritage of this land is alive in theGrika, a Greek dialect still spoken in the Salento Peninsula, as was when the area was part of the Magna Grecia.
However, the greatest gift to this area was given by nature, which shaped a suggestive landscape of rolling hills, overhanging cliffs and beautiful sandy beaches encircled by an uncontaminated sea with gentle winds from the sea that bring clean, not polluted air to its shores.
The beautiful and fertile countryside and the warmth and hospitality of the people have made the province of Lecce into a highly developed agricultural area and a preferred destination for vacationers; in fact aside of the “Lecce  stone” a soft type of limestone used for sculptures, the principal resources are agriculture and tourism.
Orchards of cherry, pear and other fruits are spread amidst the countryside along with tobacco plantations, olive, almond and fig trees; vineyards, potato farms and the cultivation of cauliflower are among the most preferred crop growing.
Wine and olive oil are produced in enormous quantities and fresh fruits are sent to all European markets.
Bread, pasta, vegetables and fish are the main elements in this province’s diet: however hand made tasty cheeses using traditional techniques are consumed locally, pork and lamb meat are occasionally eaten mostly barbequed, kids and baby lambs also are baked with potatoes or stewed with vegetables, horse chops are cooked in sauce, tripe’s rollatini stuffed with cheese and meat as are similarly made in Brindisi, the “sanguinaccio”, a spice blood sausage is an exclusive “Leccese” specialty as is the “salsiccia Leccese”, sausages made with pork, veal, lemon zest and spices.
The tolerance and patience, inherited from the character of their Greek ancestry is reflected in the easy and peaceful way of life and in their natural and simple cooking techniques.
Homemade pasta kneaded with durum wheat and/or barley and water is shaped as “orecchiette”, tiny ear pasta served with broccoli rape, the tagliatelle or sagne, pasta in the shape of small ribbons is prepared with tomato sauce, ricotta and basil or cooked with chick peas and called “ciciri e tria”. Pasta is cooked “a minestra” in a thick vegetables soup. The “tijedda di riso” rice, mussels and potato is baked using the same method as in Bari and Brindisi with the addition of artichokes, tomato, zucchini and any other vegetable in season.
An appetizing delicacy is eggplant stuffed with a small amount of breadcrumbs and anchovies, capers, olives and onions baked or braised in an air-tight clay cooking ware.
Cauliflowers from Otranto, artichokes, zucchini, broccoli rabe, string beans, eggplants and leafy vegetables are prepared in simple ways and served as “contorno”, side dish to locally caught fish very abundant in the sea that encloses the province of Lecce. Large shrimps, lobsters, mussels, clams, sea bass, groupers, squids, cuttlefish and other catches of the day are prepared in simple and pleasing ways to allow savoring the taste of the fish, unspoiled by strong herbs or spices.
Gallipoli (in Greek meaning beautiful city), a town facing the Ionic Sea, distant from Lecce about twenty-five miles is famous for the “Zuppa di Pesce” a fish chowder prepared as it was one thousand years BC.
It contains grouper, rock fish, prawns, squids, small cuttlefish, mussels, clams, few pieces of tomato, onions, parsley, white wine and olive oil. Absolutely no garlic is used in this chowder in fact in the peninsula of Salento the onions take the place of the garlic which is widely used in the northern part of Apulia.
For dessert: many specialties made with “pasta reale”, almond paste, also pasticciotti, baked small individual portion pie, stuffed with cream or marmalade, the “sfogliatella leccese” is semolina, ricotta, eggs, sugar, candied fruits and cinnamon wrapped in a fragile, crumbling crust and slowly baked. The “cotognata”, is quince jam, the “tarallo” made with short pastry,“pasta frolla”,in the shape of a donut is baked and covered with lemon flavored white icing, thesanguinaccio is made in a sweet version, with sugar, honey and chocolate. Other desserts made with honey, almond and puff pastry suggest the Greek influence to the local baking.
Among the wines: Alezio, Leverano, Copertino, Primitivo and the Nardo and Salice Salentino which are made from Negro Amaro and Malvasia Nera di Lecce.
The province of Lecce is one of the biggest Apulia winemakers: the whole region produces about 195 million gallons of wine or close to 14 per cent of the wine made in Italy!