The Deep South - Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria and 'cucina povera'

Thursday 26 July 2012

The food in this region of Southern Italy is often referred to as 'cucina poverta'.. literally 'poor man's food'.

Pasta made without eggs, bread made from hard durum wheat and greens gathered from the hedgerows. This is what makes Southern Italian food so welcoming, hearty and filling.

In the past few days we've eaten orecchiette pasta with wild horseradish in Matera - one of the oldest settlements in the world where the houses are built into caves; pureed fava beans and bitter chard in Alberobello - a village seemingly built for dwarfs where all the little white buildings have perfect conical stone roofs; and riso, patate e cozze (rice, potatoes and mussels, another classic regional dish) in Polignano a Mare - a town perched on the clifftops.

Matera - 46 degrees in the late afternoon. The cave dwellings are nice and cool though

Homemade pasta with wild horseradish (nose-burning!) at Le Botteghe in Matera
Polignano a Mare

riso, patate e cozze

Pureed fava beans with bitter chard and lashings of olive oil

Orecchiette with tomatoes and ricotta forte - strong, aged ricotta

The seafood in this region is of course outstanding too. And I ate a whole octopus in Bari.

One of the highlights of the trip through South Italy for me though has been stumbling across a side street in Bari where a team of old ladies were making fresh pasta outside their houses, to cater for the local restaurants. They were kind enough to let me take pictures - and get a few tips on technique as they proudly showed me how they made orecchiette by hand.

Next stop... Croatia...

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