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South Italian Cooking

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La Cucina Pugliese
Orecchiette made from Grano Arso

Orecchiette made from Grano Arso

© Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com
If you visit Puglia and drive north from Bari towards the Gargano Peninsula, you will pass dozens of miles of olive groves. It's little wonder that olive oil should play a major role in the region's cooking, as do cereals and grains gown on the flat stony plateau that extends south from Bari, reaching all the way to Taranto. Some of the grain becomes pasta -- Puglia is especially known for orecchiette, pasta whose shape brings the human ear to mind -- and some becomes bread; the bread of the town of Altamura is renowned, and throughout the region you'll find friselle, disks of dried bread to be dipped in water and seasoned, with olive oil, hot peppers, and freshly cut tomatoes.

What else is there to enjoy? Fine cheeses and excellent lamb and kid -- Puglia was once one of the major shepherding regions of Italy -- and superb fish: the region boasts hundreds of miles of coastline, the water is crystal clear, and the catch is both plentiful and varied. Among the preferred vegetables are fava beans, lampasioni (a type of bulb), and eggplant. And to finish up, Puglia boasts some spectacular almond cakes, and has excellent fruit; especially figs.

A final word about wine: Though Puglia was known for supplying powerful blending wines to winemakers elsewhere, the region's producers have begun to attract considerable attention with the wines they bottle themselves. In particular, look for Primitivo and Nero di Troia.

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