We just got back from a weeks holiday in Puglia in the south of Italy. I have been wanting to go there for such a long time and it was really worth the wait. I was lucky enough to attend two cooking classes while I was there and I learnt how to make traditional orecchiette pasta, as well as a few other dishes that I will be sharing too at a later date. It is a tricky shape to make to start with but you get the hang of it after a few tries. To make it all you need is fine semolina flour and water.
One pasta tip I picked up that I think is worth while sharing is how to know if the dough is kneaded enough, it is similar to the steak test, basically hold your hand out and touch the palm (on the area under your thumb) and if the pasta feels the same its ready. Another tip is not to add any salt to the pasta dough only add it to the water you are cooking it in, and don’t add the salt to the pan until the water has reached the boil.
Home made orecchiette
Orecchiette or little ears as the traditional pasta of Puglia and it is made simply with just semolina and water. there are no eggs in this pasta so its perfect for vegans. I absolutely loved the texture of the pasta, its more chewy and filling, it makes me feel like its the ultimate comfort food. Its hard to explain it but I definitely felt it was more satisfying than other pastas I have tried. maybe it is the chewiness of it I don’t know.
- fine milled semolina flour
Tip the flour on to your work surface in a volcano like mound and make a well in the middle, pour in the water, I’m not giving you exact measurements as this dough goes well by feel and you will know when there is enough liquid, (but generally I used about 200g durum wheat semolina flour with 100ml water)
basically if you fill the hole in the mound that you have made with water then using your fingers or a fork start mixing it while gradually bringing in some of the flour with each stir and then mix. at this point you can judge if you need more water or flour. I used an organic fine milled semolina. the finer the better. knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and when you press it the dough bounces back.
roll the dough out into a long thin rope and using a rounded end knife life a butter knife cut a piece off about the size of a large blueberry then with the knife at an angle drag it over the dough, and using the other hand hold the end so it doesn’t roll up then invert it and its done. (it seems really hard to explain it) this took me ages to master I would suggest watching a few videos on youtube it will really help. I added a little clip below from the workshop I took on my phone from my Instagram stories so the quality is not great.
To cook boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, I left mine to dry out for a few days on a floured tea towel an put it in a jar.
It was served in a simple tomato sauce made with fresh baby tomatoes and red onion and salt nothing else, it was so delicious. It really goes to show you don’t need a lot of ingredients. basically we just sautéed the onion in olive oil then added lots of fresh tomatoes and some water and salt and simmered until reduced and delicious. the tomatoes there are naturally quite sweet so no need for any sugar.
Puglia is situated on the heel of Italy, its cost line runs along the Adriatic sea. The land scape is golden and littered with olive trees , that’s why It is famous for its olive oil. about 40% of Italy’s olive oil production comes from this region so its worth buying some while you are there. My cooking teacher Lucrezia told me that traditionally this part of Italy was quite poor so their dishes reflect this and are simple and have few ingredients. We stayed in polignano which is near monopoli.
Polignano de mare
This town right by the sea was so pretty, I loved it as there is an old town area with small alley ways with little hidden shops and restaurants. the view from the bridge of the small beach and cliffs are really breath taking to look at. opposite the old town entrance there is a little gelato place that is been running since the 1930s. we tried the lemon gelato and it was so delicious, they also have a famous coffee that you have to try.
the view under the bridge towards the beach
Where we stayed
we stayed in the most beautiful little hotel in polignano, it is an old farm that has been converted. there are 9 suites so its small but perfectly formed. the room below is the communal lounge area and it was so breath taking. it was called masseria le torri.
the kitchen at the hotel where we did our cooking classes was so beautiful this sink was made from an old animal water feeder, this light in there was magnificent
Above, prickly pears every where
below we had roasted chestnuts on the fire
Alberbello trulli village
This is a must if you are in Puglia, these little houses are really beautiful to look at. It is quite touristy but I would highly recommend a visit. The houses are known as trulli houses and they are all round with little cone shaped roofs. it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. we went for the afternoon and wondered around the little streets and looked in the shops and got some dried pasta and gifts to take home. Some of the trullo have white symbols painted on the roofs which are pagan or magical and all mean different things.
that’s was it for out little break in Puglia and we are hoping to visit again next year. The roads seemed a bit scary if I am honest compared to the driving here in England, that’s the only negative I have.