Puglia, Italy, the heel of the boot. This long fertile region is surrounded on three sides by water. To the east is the Adriatic Sea, to the south and west the Ionian.
Sticking out, as it does, into the Adriatic and Ionian seas saw Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Arabs, much like Sicily.
While it is 350 km in length, it boasts almost 800 km of coastline and no mountains, so the ocean breezes sweep through from both sides.
The name “Puglia” comes from the Roman word for lack of rain, “a-pluvia.” The peninsula has a Mediterranean climate, and the salt winds sweep through the soft limestone buildings, keeping them bright.
Here you find Lecce, a cosmopolitan town with intricately carved buildings and Baroque design that was likely first settled by the Messapians.
Polignano a Mare, often called “the pearl of the Adriatic,” is a town on the southern Adriatic perched on a limestone cliff 20 meters above the clear waters.
Then there is Monopoli, facing east on the coast with fortified sea walls and a 16th-century fortress. The Porto Antico remains relatively unchanged after centuries.
Puglia is an agricultural region often called the “breadbasket of Italy.” The home of the famous orecchiette pasta and much of the durum wheat grown in Italy, this is a land of produce. Much of Italy’s olive oil in Italy is produced here (at one point more than half!), and you will find olive trees that are over 1000 years old. This industry had pulled Puglia out of being the poorest of regions, but a recent blight destroyed many ancient olive trees. They have since been replaced with non-indigenous varieties resistant to the blight that produce fruit quickly.
The wide expanse of vineyards, wheat fields and farms is dotted periodically with “trulli” the traditional dry stone hut that is capped with a distinctive cone shaped roof. One theory behind these huts is for tax evasion! They could be easily dismantled when tax inspectors were in the area to avoid the high taxes on property.
For our virtual visit, we are heading inland about 20km northwest of Lecce to Salice Salentino.
This month the #ItalianFWT writers continue their journey through Italy, focusing on Puglia. We are led this month by Lynn of Savor the Harvest; you can read her invitation post here. Scroll to the bottom for all the additional articles by my Colleagues!
Salice Salentino DOC
The Puglia region boasts 4 DOCGs and 28 DOCs. We are focusing on Salice Salentino, a small landlocked territory on the Salento peninsula near the town of Salice. Established in 1976, the Salice Salentino DOC was originally only for red wines but later extended the DOC coverage to white wines.
The grapes included in this DOC include Negroamaro, Aleatico, Chardonnay, Fiano, and Pinot Bianco.
The soil here is a warm red color due to the iron hydroxides. As this area is in the center of the peninsula, it sees influence from the climate, soils, and seas on either side. The west side soils near the Ionian sea are sandy, while those on the east, closer to the Adriatic, are rocky.
Negroamaro is the primary variety. The name means “black bitter.” Fitting for this grape with thick dark skin grape with heavy tannins, but when made into wine, the grape becomes lush and soft.
To be a “Rosso” or red blend in the Salice Salentino DOC, the wine must be at least 75% Negroamaro.
Marchese di Borgosole & Botter Wines
Botter was established in Venezia in 1928 as a bulk wine wholesaler. The Company remains family owned by the Botters, who feel a great responsibility to sustainability and their communities.
Their headquarters are located near Venice in Fossalta di Piave. They have two wineries, La di Motte in Motta di Livenza between Veneto and Friuli in Northern Italy and Masseria Doppio Passo in Puglia in Salice Salentino, which they purchased in 2017.
They produce large quantities of wine here with grapes from many southern wine regions, including Puglia.
On its website, Botter shares the story behind the Marchese di Borgosole brand
“In 800 with the surrender of King Francis II to Garibaldi and the fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the province of Lecce was annexed to Piedmont. A group of noble teenagers escaped from the infuriating battles taking refuge in the Serre Leccesi. They were helped by the father of one of the boys. Hidden by the enchanting hills, immersed in an almost fairytale landscape, these young men founded the small BorgoSole, so-called for the positive energy transmitted.
Marchese di Borgosole is a tribute to the places of origin of the grapes and to those who favored the birth of a wonderful glimpse of Southern Italy, whose names remain unfortunately unknown but whose noble lineage is certain.”
Marchese di Borgosole Salice Salentino DOC Riserva
This wine, based on Negroamaro, is grown in clay and calcareous soils in Salice Salentino. The grapes are destemmed and spend 7 to 8 days macerating to extract the color and structure from these thick-skinned grapes. After fermenting in Stainless Steel, the wine ages 24 months, with at least 6 of those in wood barrel.
This wine poured a medium ruby. On the nose, it was full of red fruits, cherries, plums, and raspberries. There were spice notes and a bit of violet that catches you now and again as if it is drifting through on a breeze.
In my mouth, those fruit notes were juicy and bright, with a bit of cranberry added to the cherry, raspberry, and plum.
13.5% abv – SRP $12.99
(This wine is available through Total Wine. If you use the link here on our website, we may recieve a small commission)
La Cucina Povera and Ciceri e tria
Puglia has historically been one of the poorest in Italy and has become famous for “Cucina Povera,” the kitchen of the poor. The people of Puglia took simple, affordable, accessible ingredients and made something delicious of them.
I found a dish that the authors spoke of as “archaeology in a dish.” Well, that made it impossible to pass up! In addition, it calls for rustic homemade noodles. I have fond memories of the Hungarian butter noodles that a good friend of my mother’s would make as a child. She always made them fresh when we came to dinner because she knew I loved them so much.
In addition to producing much of the country’s durum wheat, the region is also known for growing artichokes, broccoli rabe, fennel, olives, grapes, and chickpeas.
Ciceri e tria (or ciciri e trya), is a dish of Arab origins. “Itrya” means dried pasta.
Chickpeas used to be grown on the floodplains in Salento among head-trained grapevines, making this a perfect “what grows together, goes together,” meal.
Using simple pasta without eggs this dish then combines the pasta with a comforting sauce of chickpeas, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and tomatoes. I had read that sometimes anchovies are added and decided to opt for that extra umami in our dish as well as a little peppery arugula and is topped with little pieces of fried pasta.
You can make this recipe with All-purpose or OO flour, but ideally, it is a mix of OO and Semolina.
Wholesome and hearty, with the addition of anchovies in this dish, the umami notes were highlighted by the wine. The roasted tomatoes seemed to enhance the fruit notes in the wine.
I had been concerned about the weight of the sauce, which is traditionally somewhere between a broth and a sauce. My version was likely a bit thicker, but I found it homey and comforting. The rustic noodles were just what I was craving.
Just a note that the fried noodles should be made just before serving, as I found that they quickly lost their crispiness.
More on Puglia from the writers at #ItalianFWT
Our #ItalianFWT posts go live this Friday and Saturday, February 3rd and 4th starring:
Camilla at Culinary Cam sharing a “Killer Pairing: Spaghetti all’Assassina + A Negroamaro from Brindisi”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog sharing “An Unconventional Style of Primitivo – 2020 Produttori Di Manduria Electric Bee Primitivo”
Susannah from Avvinare tells us about “Primitivo from Gioia del Colle, A Revelation”
Jennifer at Vino Travels discusses “A Rare Puglian Grape – Susumaniello”
Gwendolyn the Wine Predator shares “A Family Tradition: Domus Hortae’s organic wines from the heel of Italy”
Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Octopus with Polenta and a Rosato from Puglia inspired by The Food Club.”
Katarina from Grapevine Adventures shares “Borgo Turrito Focusses on Nero di Troia in Foggia in Puglia”
And here at Savor the Harvest, Lynn discusses “Negro Amaro Three Ways from Puglia”
Ciceri e tria (or ciciri e trya), is a dish of Arab origins.
This dish uses simple pasta without eggs and combines it with a comforting sauce of chickpeas, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and tomatoes. I had read that sometimes anchovies are added and decided to opt for that extra umami in our dish as well as a little peppery arugula.
The dish is topped, as is traditional, with little pieces of fried pasta.
This pairs beautifully with a Salice Salentino DOC wine. These wines are based on the negroamaro grape and work wonderfully with the extra umami notes from the roasted tomatoes and anchovies.
*Based on a trio of recipes from La Cucina Italian, My Italian Recipes, and Gay Puglia Podcast.
- 1 - 15 oz can of chickpeas (keep the liquid)
- 1 ½ onions
- 1 large carrot
- 1 rib of celery
- 1 clove of garlic
- 3 cups of water
- 1 - 14.5 oz can of chopped tomatoes
- 1/3 cup EVOO
- 2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- ¼ cup of arugula
- 1 tin of anchovies, drained and chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- ¼ cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup Grated Grana Padano cheese
- 1 cup OO flour (often called Pizza dough flour)
- 2 cups Semolina flour (or pasta flour)
- 1 cup of water.
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Make the pasta first.
- Mix the two flours in a large bowl with the salt. Add the water gradually, mixing with a fork until the flour is incorporated.
- Turn this out onto a flat surface and knead for 5-6 minutes.
- Cover with a tea towel and let this rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Knead the dough again 2 or 3 times.
- Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick.
- Dust both sides with flour, roll this up and cut into strips ½ in wide.
- Unroll at cut into 3-inch pieces.
- Dust these with flour and allow them to dry for 2-3 hours.
- Make the sauce
- Quarter one onion, slice the carrot in 3rds, and cut the celery stick in half.
- Add these and the clove of garlic to a saucepan. Add ½ the chickpeas and ½ of their liquid, plus 1 1/2 cups of water. Cover and simmer until the carrot is soft, 15-20 minutes, adding more water if needed.
- Set this aside to cool, then blend with an immersion blender. (or toss it in a food processor or blender)
- In another saucepan, add the 3 tbsp olive oil and ½ onion diced. Cook until translucent.
- Add the remaining chickpeas, liquid, rosemary, and 1 ½ cups of water. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the can of chopped tomatoes.
- Simmer gently for another 4 minutes.
- Fry 1/3 of the pasta in olive, canola, or sunflower oil until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
- Cook the remaining pasta in boiling water (salted like the sea) for 5-6 minutes.
- Add the blended sauce to the pan with the whole chickpeas a bit at a time until you
get a consistency between a broth and a sauce. (If needed, you can use some of the pasta water)
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat, and stir
in ¾ of the arugula, anchovies, and half the cheese. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Plate and top with the fried pasta, remaining grated cheese, arugula, and fresh parsley.
You can roll the pasta thicker. The original recipe said ¼ inch thick, but when I got there, I felt it was too thick, so I went for 1/8 inch. Alternatively, you can use a pasta maker for this. I was looking for a rustic aspect, so I chose to hand-cut the pasta.
Amount Per Serving Calories 477Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 23mgSodium 306mgCarbohydrates 61gFiber 7gSugar 4gProtein 17g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Sources and Resources
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
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