The main characteristic of Italian cooking is its healthy balance, the excellent basic
ingredients being simply cooked and retaining their original goodness and
freshness. Simple and yet with such a variety of flavors and rich inventiveness in
preparation that even the most demanding gourmet is delighted.
COLAZIONE - PRANZO - CENA
Italian breakfast is quite different from an English or American one and
Colazione is usually light:
cappuccino (coffee and milk) and a "cornetto" (sweet
pastry), or simply espresso (black-short-strong coffee).
Pranzo (lunch) is the biggest meal of the day.
In formal occasions it consists of antipasto
(starter) a primo piatto (pasta, rice or soup), a secondo piatto (meat or fish) with contorno
(vegetable or salad), then frutta ( fresh fruit).
Finish with espresso coffee and maybe a grappa or amaro (strong digestive liqueur).
An everyday lunch would probabilly skip the starter... but not the rest.
Cena (dinner) is similar to lunch. Nowadays there is a tendency to have a lighter than traditional
lunch, then dinner becomes the major meal.
Gelato and granita
Gelato (ice-cream) has hundreds of different flavours and can be enjoyed at
anytime of the day as well as the granita (crushed ice with flavoured syrup).
Where to eat?
There are thousands of ristoranti (restaurants): the most formal
type of place to eat when one is not in a hurry. Many of them in the area are family-run.
A trattoria is less formal than a ristorante, where local
specialties are served.
Last, but not least the pizzeria: is not only for pizza lovers!
Typical Puglian products are appreciated all over the world, thanks to their quality.
Dairy products, salumi (in particular the "capocollo"), wood oven baked bread, wine, olive oil, pasta are now well known at an international level.
Recently, the nearby town of Martina Franca has become part of the awarded group“Slow Cities”, an organization started by the “Slow Food” association.
Orecchiette is a type of pasta native to Apulia, whose shape resembles a small ear (in Italian, "ear" is
orecchio). In the Taranto area it is still called by the synonym chiancarelle. An orecchietta is about 3/4 of an inch in size and looks like a small white dome with a thinner center than edge and a rough surface.
A different, non-domed version is called strascinate. Like most pasta, all versions of orecchiette are made
with only hard (or durum) wheat flour, water and salt.
The typical regional recipe couples orecchiette with turnip tops (called "orecchiette con le cime da rapa").
Bread, frise, focaccia and taralli.
Frise being baked at high temperatures are traditionally softened with a drop of water and eaten with fresh tomatos, oil, salt and origano.
The tarallo it is a typical savoury bakery product from the South of Italy. The tarallino pugliese contains olive oil and, sometimes, fennel seeds or chili pepper.
Mozzarelle, ricotta, scamorza, caciocavallo...
Olives, olive oil, grapes and wine...
A few recipes for you to try
(All recipes here are for four people)
Eggy balls-polpette di uova
You will need:4 fresh eggs, 150 g of grated cheese, obviously not cheddar!,2 white bread rolls soaked in milk, 75 g. breadcrumbs,parsley, mint, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil.
Now here's what you have to do:Mix together the squeezed bread rolls with the cheese and breadcrumbs,add the chopped parsley and the very finely chopped garlic,salt, pepper,not forgetting that mint, mix together.Meanwhile get your olive oil nice and hot and,by using two spoons, sculpt egg shaped balls and fry away. You will need to turn them over with a wooden spatula to get them browned on both sides. These should be served hot but they don't always get as far as the table!
Like mussels? Try this. You will need:1 kg. of mussels with shells,3 chopped tomatoes,parsley,rocket,garlic,olive oil,chili pepper,black pepper,a little flour and some fresh pasta.
First clean your mussels very well, then put half a kilo of these into deep frying pan with a little oil,the garlic,copped parsley,peppers and let this cook together for about 10 mins or until the mussels open up. Take these cooked mussels out of their shells and put to one side. Now repeat the whole thing with the other half a kilo of mussels,cook for 10 mins, throw in the cooked and saved mussels and cook all together for 5 more minutes. Here you could thicken the sauce with a little flour. Cook the pasta in lots of boiling and salted water,drain and put the pasta into the pan with the mussels. Add tomatoes, parsley and rocket. This you will enjoy!
And now for something sweet and very more-ish.
500 g.peeled almonds,350 g. sugar,100 g. water, grated lemon rind,olive oil,50g. aniseed liquer if you like it. Now,toast your almonds for about 30 mins at 120°C, be careful not to burn them. Melt the sugar in a heavy pan with water, lemon peel, and aniseed. Add the almonds to the sugar syrup when it has reduced by half, keep up the heat and stir away with a wooden spoon until it gets sticky. Turn off heat and turn the hot mixture onto a work surface which has been oiled to stop sticking. Spread out nut mixture and using your wooden spoon break it up into lumps. The sugar should be white still and not toffee-ish.
This is great to end a meal with or just to offer to guests who pop in. They will be back!
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