How good to eat in southern Italy! In addition to the unique climate and sea of certain places, it is often also the food that gives an extra touch to our holiday. Today we are going to discover the typical products of Salento, a renowned and beautiful land. But, despite its fame, it still keeps some secrets, especially in its traditional cuisine. A good reason to start a food and wine tour among the ancient flavors and specialties of this enchanting land.
So... Have a nice trip!
Typical products from Salento
Before we sit down at the table, let's meet some of the typical products of Salento, perfect to enjoy around the street or to take at home with us, to let the holiday go on.
In Salento is very common to start with the pittule. Fried and small balls of bread, typical of all the areas of Puglia and also of the neighboring regions. But it is in Salento that, in some way, they have found their home, becoming a real local product. What to eat along? Everything, salty or sweet, from mussels to honey, or together with other fried food as an accompaniment.
Another very good, local product, made from flour, is the pirilla salentina, or pitilla. This is a circular-shaped focaccia, whose dough is baked in a wood-fired oven. The surface remains very smooth, and hard, while the interior is softer. This tasty peasant bread is usually eaten hot, freshly baked, either alone or stuffed with ricotta cheese, anchovies or olive oil.
Typical products from Salento at the Agriturismo Tenuta Mezzana
One of the last proposals, the famous puccia salentina. This one is traditionally indicated as the king of the street food here. In the province of Lecce, this speciality finds its place in more than one grocery, the ones so-called 'puccerie'. What is the puccia? This is a special bread, without a crumb, which therefore becomes particularly suitable for an abundant filling. You'll often find it stuffed with stewed horse meat.
In Salento, appetizers and street food may overlap. It is therefore common to start the meal with some pittule or some pucce, or with other dishes similar to street food. Two of these 'border' specialities are the turcinieddhi and the rustici leccesi.
The first one are entrails rolls wrapped in lamb or kid gut, grilled and flavoured with parsley and fennel. Great for whet your appetite or nibbling on something while walking. The rustico Leccese is perhaps even more street food than the turcinieddhi, but some restaurant may serve along with other appetizers. It consists of a thin sheet of pasta, stuffed with mozzarella, tomato and béchamel.
A curiosity: some experts have noticed that the ingredients, not really local, suggest a foreign origin of the rustico. Probably influenced by the French vol-au-vent, perhaps introduced in Salento by some noble family from Lecce.
The rest of the appetizers, more traditional, use local products cooked in various ways. From stuffed artichokes to eggplant meatballs, from peppers with muddhica to fried scamorze. In the end, the potato pitta. A tasty potato mixture that wraps around a filling of fried onion, tomato sauce and olives.
First courses from Salento
The first courses of Salento are very special, and can take advantage of different qualities of homemade pasta. One of the most characteristic are the 'sagne ncannulate', a true tradition that every citizen of Salento knows. It is a wheat semolina pasta without egg, which is traditionally twisted around one finger or a tube to give it the typical shape. An excellent solution to collect rich tomato sauces and ricotta forte salentina.
If you want to continue with something really typical, here are some first courses of evident peasant tradition. The Ciceri and Tria are a simple and attractive dish. Ciceri are chickpeas, which are cooked in a pot with a drizzle of oil, chilli pepper and rosemary. Pasta, on the other hand, is 'tria', that means fried pasta. Part of this, in fact, is not cooked in a pot, but thrown into the pan with oil. The union of this with everything else gives a crispy and particular touch to the whole dish.
Then try the Muersi fritti, cubes of fried bread arranged on a soup of chicory, green peas and tomato. Or, again, faveneddhe and cicureddhe, a mash of broad beans and chicories, very simple and substantial. And finally, the granu stumpatu, which means "beaten up". It is a traditional product, which is nothing more than boiled wheat and then crushed with a mortar. In Salento it is made with tomato sauce, fried onion and flavoured with pecorino cheese and basil. A real delicacy.
Salento cuisine at the Agriturismo Lu Schiau
Second courses from Salento
A typical and very tasty meat course is the chicken cusutu nculu, which may be translated as 'stuffed chicken'. Preparation is very simple. Remove the entrails from the chicken, chop them, and then add them to a beat of bacon, onion, oil, salt and chili pepper. Everything is reintroduced into the chicken and baked, sewing the opening. A dish that, traditionally, was prepared for the holidays.
Another typical second of Salento are the pieces of pignata horse. One of the most authentic flavors of these lands, still sought after and proposed in rustic restaurants and farms. It is in all respects a stew of horse meat, cooked strictly in a pignatta, which guarantees a particular method of cooking. Tomato sauce, onion and herbs are added to the minced meat. For those who like it, recipe wants the addition of chili. And the dish is served!
But, you know, Salento can only be land of fish, as a peninsula stretched out to the sea. Here, seafood can be found in all kinds of sauces and preparations, from the most classic to the most sought-after. But a real specialty, typical of the Gallipoli area, is scapece. Better: Gallipoli scapece, precisely. It is an incredibly tasty and original dish, served in restaurants of typical cuisine as well as during festivals and parties in Salento.
The protagonist is the fish, which is usually local. Boghe and zerri, according to tradition. But other species are used as well. This fish is fried, and then marinated together with breadcrumbs, soaked in vinegar, and saffron. It is then composed like a lasagna, alternating fish with layers of breadcrumbs, in a succulent succession of flavours.
The taste of Salento at the Agriturismo Bellolio
Desserts from Salento
What do you think when it comes to Salento's desserts? We can immediately think of the pasticciotto from Lecce. One of the legends that you must taste along the baroque streets of the city. Or anywhere in the province.
But the pastry-making in Salento is not certainly over. Holiday periods bring some specialties. Like Christmas, when the purceddhuzzi come. Fried flour sweets, flavoured with lemon, hints of citrus fruits, and decorated with sugars. Or the Mocche di Dama, very ancient and dedicated to Sant'Agata, in a recipe probably coming from Sicily and from the very similar 'Minni di Vergine' from Catania.
And then, the pitteddhe. Little sweets of pasta that recall, in the form, the cartellate of Puglia. The filling is traditionally stuffed with grape mustard, but you can find different variations, with figs jams or other sweet fruit.
Here ends our brief excursus along the flavors of the Salento lands. A place rich in history and influences, which still retains the aromas of its typical products and traditional dishes. Delicacies to taste in the agritourism with restaurants of Salento.