In 2011 they took on Tuscany, in 2013, Sicily, and now it’s finally Puglia’s turn to step into the spotlight cast by beloved cookbook dynasty Silver Spoon. The region of Italy’s heel is a vast and varied culinary paradise that, until recent years, has flown under the radar for most travelers to the country. But oh the marvels that the intrepid voyager will find there: immaculate turquoise waters bordered by rocky beaches and shady caved grottos, rolling hills dotted with trulli (the region’s iconic conical-roofed huts), the baroque beauty that is Lecce, and a rich history of food and drink. It is this southernmost region that birthed chewy Pugliese bread, Negroamaro wine, crispy taralli (best enjoyed with the aforementioned Negroamaro) and, most thrillingly, for cheese-heads like myself, burrata. The new Silver Spoon tome takes you on a beautifully illustrated journey to Puglia’s various corners, highlighting the food emerging from each one, like orecchiette con cime di rapa from Bari and pure di fave e cicorielle from Barletta. You will be inspired to cook and, likely, spring for a plane ticket. Here, two of our favorite recipes from this new essential regional cookbook (Adapted from Puglia © 2015 courtesy of Phaidon). FIORELLA V.
PASTA E CAVOLFIORE (Pasta and Cauliflower)
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Don’t be misled by the prosaic name of this recipe. True, it’s a combination of simple ingredients, but this dish is extremely tasty. Top with fried breadcrumbs for extra texture, or offer grated cheese on the side.
Put the cauliflower into a large saucepan of boiling salted water and cook for 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside, reserving the cooking water.
Cook the pasta in the boiling cauliflower water for 10 minutes, or until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan or skillet, add the garlic and fry over medium heat until browned. Discard the garlic, then add the pancetta, tomatoes and chili to the oil and fry for 5 – 6 minutes, until soft.
Drain the pasta, then add to the pan along with the cauliflower and seasoning. Drizzle with olive oil. Stir well, scatter with Parmesan and serve.
POLPI IN UMIDO (Stewed Octopus)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Wash the octopus under running water and cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish, add the garlic and fry until brown. Discard the garlic, then add the octopus and fry for a few minutes to flavor it. Pour in the wine and heat until it has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes, anchovies and seasoning to the pan. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour, until the sauce has thickened and the octopus is tender.
Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve.