Welcome, fellow epicures, to the captivating region of Apulia where delicious culinary delights wait around every corner. This beautiful area of southern Italy, nestled in the “heel” of the famous “boot”, is a true paradise for foodies. Boasting a rich agricultural heritage, sun-kissed landscapes and a vibrant gastronomy deeply rooted in simplicity, Apulia offers an eating experience like no other on the planet. In this article, we embark on a mouthwatering journey to discover the best foods of Puglia that you absolutely must try on your trip.
Puglia’s abundant agricultural resources, fertile soil and favorable climate provide the perfect conditions for an extraordinary array of dishes to emerge. From the fertile vineyards producing robust wines to the ancient olive groves yielding liquid gold, the culinary offerings here are naturally intertwined with the bountiful land and sea. Moreover, Puglia’s rich cultural heritage and historical influences – including Greek, Roman and Arabic – have shaped its gastronomy into a unique combination of different traditions and flavors.
No trip to Puglia is complete without savoring the iconic Pane di Altamura. This golden-brown loaf is fashioned out of durum wheat, salt, water and yeast – and as simple as that may sound, only the highly skilled and knowledgeable artisans of Altamura have perfected the process. They know how to mix the grains, mill them to create a special type of flour, knead the dough and bake the bread in the oven with oak firewood to create the delectable final product.
Pane di Altamura dates back to the ancient Roman period and today is protected by the European Union’s PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status. Each bite of its crunchy crust and soft inner will have you licking your lips for more – especially when drenched in generous portions of olive oil.
Prepare your taste buds for a creamy delight with this fresh cow/buffalo milk cheese. Burrata, a specialty originating from the Pugliese comune of Andria, is a true delicacy. Encased in a delicate shell of mozzarella, the interior reveals a luscious center of stracciatella and cream. Burrata looks like a smooth and white sphere, with a creamy and soft heart. Spread this velvety goodness on crusty bread or pair it with fresh tomatoes for a match made in heaven.
Orecchiette, meaning “little ears” in Italian, is the pasta shape most associated with Puglia. The pasta dates all the way back to the 12th and 13th centuries when it mysteriously appeared around Bari. Today, handcrafted by everyone from nonnas to chefs, these small round discs boast a unique texture that captures sauces beautifully. Whether served with a simple tomato and basil sauce or a hearty meat ragu, Orecchiette exemplifies Puglia’s pasta prowess.
Perfect for Puglia’s warm summers, Friselle is a rustic, double-baked bread made from durum wheat that becomes a refreshing dish when topped with juicy tomatoes and olive oil. The crispness of the bread paired with the vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean make this a delightful and satisfying choice.
Puglia’s rustic cuisine often celebrates humble ingredients, and Fave e Cicoria (fava beans and chicory) is a prime example of this. The mixture of creamy fava beans and bitter chicory creates a delightful contrast of flavors. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with dried chili pepper and you have a comforting dish that will transport you to the heart of Puglia’s countryside.
The beautiful coastline of Puglia produces an abundance of fresh seafood, and Polpo alla Pignata showcases the region’s culinary diversity with this popular octopus stew. Slowly stewed in its own juices in a clay pot with tomatoes, leeks, potatoes, garlic and aromatic herbs, this tender dish is a delight for all the seafood lovers out there. The octopus absorbs the rich flavors of the stew, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth experience that will have you savoring every bite. It screams out for crusty bread to be dipped into the sauce – making it a hearty meal to warm you up on cold winter nights.
Originating in recent times from the Salento peninsula, this simple Pugliese sandwich is made of pizza dough but can be filled with anything your heart desires: from the finest cured meats and cheese, to fresh vegetables and tasty spreads. Whether enjoyed as a snack or quick lunch, the Puccia is a handheld meal whose versatility knows no bounds. What is even better, this sandwich is very cheap – ideal for those heading through Puglia on a shoestring budget.
Ciceri e Tria is another typical dish from the Puglia region of Italy, essentially a combination of pasta and chickpeas. However, there is more to Ciceri e Tria than just those two main ingredients. The pasta is definitely the most unique aspect on the plate: tria is the name for this local ribbon-shaped pasta made from semolina flour which is actually fried (believe it or not) until crispy, golden brown. The contrasting textures of the crispy pasta and the creamy chickpeas create a symphony of flavors that will leave you craving more.
Focaccia Barese, made with potatoes in the dough, is a true masterpiece. This fluffy, golden-brown bread is generously topped with cherry tomatoes and olives, then drizzled with olive oil. The result is a heavenly combination of savory flavors and a satisfyingly soft middle with a slightly crispy texture on the edges. Enjoy it as a snack, an appetizer or alongside an antipasto platter.
We conclude our list of the must-try foods of Puglia with a delicious treat that will satisfy your sweet tooth – the one and only Pasticciotti. These delicate pastries consist of a buttery, shortcrust shell filled with luscious custard cream. Whether you opt for the traditional vanilla flavor or indulge in fruity variations like lemon or cherry, each bite of Pasticciotti is a small taste of bliss.