Chef Paola is on a road trip throughout Italy and we couldn't be more jealous. It's very common for Europeans to take extended holidays in July and August. Chef Daniela, for example, is taking a holiday for the entire month of August (but don't fret - you can book a cooking class with her again starting in September).
Paola is taking us along for part of her culinary journey through her wonderful country. Right now she's in Puglia. Puglia is an incredible (and underrated) region of Italy, tourists tend to overlook this part of the country, which is truly a shame. Perhaps it's because it's a bit off the beaten path, being the heel part of the boot, which for the residents of Puglia, perhaps they're happy about this. It's been said that Puglia is one of the richest archaeological regions in Italy. The architecture is so unique - as you can see from the picture above.
These buildings are called Trulli and they're found extensively throughout Puglia. It's said they began building these structures in the 14th century, with the intent for the dwellings to be easy to demolish if a threat was nearby (or to avoid paying taxes on settlements). These Trulli are now being renovated into beautiful little holiday homes. If you're heading to Italy and interested in staying in one, you can visit La Trullarella for accommodations.
Popular destinations in Puglia are Bari, Lecce, and Salento which is not-to-be-missed. This region is also known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
But of course, and what we love the most, they also have very different food traditions, which we'll talk more about soon. It's one of Paola's favourite places in Italy, so it's no wonder she's decided to start her road trip here. Here are some of the food highlights.
Along the coast, you'll find a tremendous amount of beautiful seafood. Paola was excited about this Octopus and Fresh Sea Urchin.
Look at this beautiful handmade pasta! We'll tell you more about the traditions of Puglia and pasta-making in an upcoming article. You can book a cooking class with Chef Paola to learn how to make fresh pasta at home in either the Raviolo cooking class, Ragu & Pomodoro cooking class, or Pesto & Pasta cooking class, which teaches a different type of pasta dumpling.
A simple Orecchiette e cacio ricotta was Paola's dinner. Orecchiette shaped pasta (invented in Puglia) with a ricotta cheese. Another simple dish, but the tomatoes and fresh ricotta cheese is like an explosion of flavour.
Italian food is often very simple, but the quality of the ingredients is what makes it stand out.
And last (but definitely not least) a simple Focaccia Patate Olive e Pomodori, which is simply focaccia bread made with potato, olives and tomato. So simple, but incredibly flavourful.
If you'd like to make this at home, here's a great recipe to get you started.
Pugliese Style Focaccia Bread with Tomato and Olives
Boil potatoes in salted water, then allow to cool. In a large bowl, add your flour and then with a potato masher, add the potatoes to the flour.
Dissolve the yeast in a glass of warm water, then pour the yeast into the bowl. Add the salt, and knead your dough until it's smooth. Let your dough rise by covering it with plastic wrap and placing in a warm area for two-hours. Don't let your dough dry-out.
Preheat your oven to 450 F. Wash and cut your tomatoes in half. In a pan (circular or rectangle) add plenty of olive oil. Stretch the dough keeping your hands moist with water, in an even layer across the bottom of the pan. Arrange your tomatoes across your dough with the skin side up. Add pitiless olives, sprinkle with oregano and plenty of sea salt.
Sprinkle olive oil on top of your dough to keep it moist, and then bake for 20-30 minutes until it's well cooked and golden brown.
Enjoy with a nice glass of wine that comes from Puglia, and you have a wonderful Sunday of leisure.
For the Love of Eating Our Way Through the World,