Puglia, also named by its Latin name Apulia by foreigners, is an important region part of southern Italy.Puglia is among the most visited regions of Italy. Every year Puglia is the home destination for millions of tourists who want enjoy sunny days and tasting the fantastic food that Puglia offers.
If you are a food lover and like to taste the traditional dishes of places, you will love all the foods that Puglia offers. Most traditional dishes prepared in Puglia are derived from simple ingredients produced in the territory. An example is olive oil, turnip tops, green cabbage, thistle, peppers, artichokes, and all legumes, from beans to lentils to and broad beans.
It is also worth mentioning the importance of seafood in Apulia. You will find most of the restaurants serving your fresh fish in the most famous cities of Puglia, such as Bari, Lecce, and Brindisi. Mostly shellfish since they represent the strong point of this region.
Origin & Characteristics of Food in Puglia
Most of the traditional types of pasta produced in Puglia are made from the cultivation of durum wheat in the Tavoliere plains.
Hence the dark color you will encounter in many restaurants during your visit to Puglia.
Most Apulian dishes are reminiscent of Greek and Roman cuisine. However, Byzantines, Arabs, Swabians, Aragonese, and Spaniards also influenced architecture, language, and culinary habits.
Puglia is a region rich in things to do and discover. The sea, nature, architectures, and cities rich in history, such as Lecce and Otranto, will be worth a vacation in Puglia.
Popular Pasta Dishes to Try in Puglia
As I already did for the the first two south region of Italy, in my Calabria food guide and Sicily Food guide, we start to discover more of the most typical food of Puglia region by taking a look to the most popular pasta that you cannot miss in your next visit in Puglia.
Cavatelli Con ceci (Cavatelli With Chickpeas)
One of the simplest types of dishes that you can try in Apulia is Cavatelli with chickpeas. This dish is the perfect example of Apulia cuisine. Poor ingredients, but fresh and tasty. You can find Cavatelli with chickpeas practically in every city of Puglia that you will decide to visit since it is part of Puglia’s most traditional dishes.
If during your morning or days you walked a lot and discovered a lot of places, these dishes made with Chickpeas have a lot of protein, perfect for giving you the energy and power to continue exploring more.
Orecchiette Alle Cime Di Rapa (Orecchiette With Turnip Greens)
Orecchiette is the most iconical type of pasta produced in Puglia. If you visit Puglia, be prepared to hear and taste this type of pasta practically in every restaurant. Orecchiette is a pasta famous worldwide; its shape is round and concave. They are smooth on the inside and rough and wrinkled on the outside.
Orecchiette dough requires only a few simple ingredients, such as water, durum wheat semolina flour, and salt. Anyway, what is truly fascinating is watching the older women in the streets of Bari prepare this traditional pasta which is part of the Apulian tradition. If you are going to visit Bari and you are curious to know where to find the original Orecchiette, you have to see “Bari Vecchia.”
Suppose you want an original souvenir from your vacation spent in Bari. In that case, there is nothing better than a kilogram of Orecchiette, which you can buy by heading along the streets of Bari Vecchia. The cost is about 5 euros for a kilogram.
The most famous way of cooking Orecchiette pasta is with turnip greens. It is part of the traditional peasant dish from Puglia, and in whatever restaurant you decide to eat it, you will be surprised by its taste. If you are a food lover, Orecchiette with turnip greens is something you cannot miss during your stay in Puglia.
Riso, Patate e Cozze (Rice, Potatoes and Mussels)
Proceeding with the list, we find another iconic main dish of traditional Apulian cuisine. I am talking about the famous Rice, Potatoes, and Mussels. It is one of the most popular dishes in restaurants, both by Italians and foreigners. The reason? The answer is simple: the incredible taste of the dish.
Rice, Potatoes, and Mussels are also known as tiella Barese. Whichever version you try, the cooking method of this traditional dish will be the same. In fact, it is prepared in a pan where the following are added raw: rice, mussels, thinly sliced potatoes, tomatoes, onion rings, fresh chopped parsley, and pecorino cheese!
Like any traditional recipe you will try in most of Italy, it will be different. But it doesn’t matter because the end result will be incredible.
Maccheroni alla Pugliese
As you probably know, pasta in Italy is something incredible. No matter what region of Italy you visit, you will find new ways to prepare the same types of pasta. Such is the case with the next pasta on my list of the best dishes to try in Puglia, “Maccheroni Alla Pugliese.“
Maccheroni alla Pugliese is a pasta prepared mainly on Sundays in Puglia as part of the tradition of the inhabitants. The ingredients used to prepare this type of dish are very reminiscent of pasta ncasciata and pasta a lu furnu found in Sicily and Calabria. In fact, (macaroni pasta), tomatoes, mozzarella, and garlic are used to prepare this dish. After mixing all the ingredients, you place them in the oven, cooking them according to the required time.
If it is Sunday and you have no idea what to eat in Apulia, perhaps because you have already tasted most of the traditional dishes, try this dish; it will all make you feel like an authentic “Apulian. “
Most Popular Secondi (Main Courses) and Street Food in Puglia
Now that we have seen the typical first courses of Apulian cuisine, it is time to go and see what the most popular second courses of Apulia are.
I want to anticipate right away that the Apulian main courses, as well as the first courses you have just seen, will be just as tasty.
Among the most popular second courses of Puglia, we find shellfish, sea truffles, urchins, and various shellfish.
In short, as you may have guessed, your lunches in Puglia will always be very appetizing.
Apulian street food will be no less, where you will find I Rustici leccesi le bucce and pizzarelle and panzerotti.
But now let’s take a more detailed look.
The first Apulian street food we are going to look at in this section is the famous panzerotti.
Panzerotti, also known by the name Calzone in different parts of southern Italy, is one of the most popular foods for Italians. In fact, it is eaten mainly as a quick snack during the afternoon or in the evening.
Panzerotti originated in Puglia and can be defined as a real dish of the poor.
This is because, in Ancient times, Apulian women used the leftover bread dough to create half moons stuffed with tomato mozzarella and ham to be then fried. Thus creating what is known nowadays as one of the most popular and famous dishes of Apulian cuisine.
Nowadays, panzerotti can be tasted not only in Apulia but in all parts of Italy and also the rest of the world.
The characteristics that make Il Panzerotto one of the most loved Street foods by Italians and foreigners is due to its simplicity and goodness.
If you are in Apulia, you are traveling to; panzerotti is definitely one of the Apulian specialties you cannot miss.
Bread (Pane di Altamura)
If you are traveling to Apulia, you will surely have noticed the importance of bread to the people of Apulia.
The origins of this bread, famous throughout Italy, are very ancient.
In fact, you should know that once upon a time, this type of typical Apulian bread was used to feed farmers and shepherds when they had to work far from home since it turned out to be a very durable bread.
If You are in Apulia and You want to taste the original Altamura bread, make sure it has the stamp with the protected designation of origin. If you are in a bakery and the stamp is not present, with a high probability, you are looking at a non-original Altamura bread.
Focaccia Barese is another gastronomic symbol of the Apulia Region.
The focaccia barese has now become an international symbol that carries high the flag of the Apulia Region.
Focaccia barese is now prepared everywhere in Italy, even in northern Italy. However, the real original focaccia remains in Bari. True Bari focaccia is prepared with natural stone-ground 00 durum wheat semolina, Water tomatoes, boiled potatoes, and olives.
All natural ingredients produced directly in the area.
Depending on which area you are in during your visit to Apulia, you can find different variations of Apulian focaccia, such as white and rosemary focaccia with potatoes or topped with peppers.
Feel free to try these new flavors as well; however, I want to tell you that, in my opinion, the best one will always remain the one with fresh cherry tomatoes and olives, just as the Bari tradition dictates.
Suppose you’ve worked up an appetite while visiting one of Puglia’s major cities and are in the mood to try something typical of Puglia and, at the same time, tasty.
In this case, I recommend you try the Frisella, better called Friselle.
Frisella’s are crispy doughnuts prepared with durum wheat flour or barley, obtained after baking in the oven.
This delicious baked cookie is topped with ingredients that may vary depending on the restaurant and the city you are in.
However, most restaurants use the classic version prepared with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
Like most of the Apulian dishes we have seen so far, the origins of friselle are just as ancient. They date back to the 10th century B.C., eaten by Phoenician sailors as a travel bread and softened with seawater, then flavored with olive oil.
Today, Frisella is a popular dish among Apulian, used during late afternoon or evening aperitifs.
As we have seen, Frisella is nothing special compared to the typical Apulian foods seen above. However, it is worth considering taking a package of it back to your continent, perhaps as a souvenir.
If you are on the coast of Bari, a seafood dish that you absolutely must try is cozze arragnate.
The name of this dish comes from the Apulian dialect, which is used to refer to dishes baked au gratin with breadcrumbs and crumbs.
The ingredients used in the preparation of this delicious dish are parsley and cheese.
Among the most traditional main courses in Apulian cuisine is bombette.
This main course, cooked throughout Puglia, consists of meat rolls stuffed with bacon and caciocavallo cheese. The whole is rolled, which makes it look just like a bowler hat. This is precisely where its name comes from.
According to Apulian tradition, this second course should be barbecued or, alternatively, you will find it prepared in the oven.
If this typical second course of Apulian cuisine has whetted your appetite, you can taste it in most street food and restaurants throughout Apulia.
We cannot continue this section entirely devoted to the foods of Puglia without mentioning taralli.
Taralli is a symbol of Apulian gastronomy.
The beauty of this typical Apulian snack is that it can be eaten at any time of the day paired with any drink, whether alcoholic or not.
Taralli have a ring shape that is used a lot During aperitifs accompanied perhaps by a glass of wine.
The origin of this snack, which nowadays is a symbol for Apulia, dates back to around 1400.
Among the stories where the origin of the Tarallo is told, it was discovered that the first Tarallo was prepared by a mother who, not having much to cook for her children, invented an innovative thing using everything she had in her pantry.
With the passage of time, the Tarallo has undergone several changes, and nowadays, it is possible to taste different flavors than the original recipe.
However, one thing is certain the Tarallo remains and will forever remain one of the most iconic symbols of Apulian cuisine.
Polpette di pane
As we anticipated at the beginning of this guide to food in Puglia, Apulian cuisine mainly uses very simple ingredients derived from a poor cuisine.
A classic example is Apulian bread balls. This typical Apulian dish has peasant origins.
Breadcrumbs and cheese are used in the preparation of this typical Apulian second course without resorting to the classic meatball recipe that uses meat.
Again, Polpette di pane can be found in most Street Food scattered around Puglia and in some Apulian restaurants.
Fave e cicorie: Fava beans and chicory
I imagine that after reading all these typical Apulian dishes, you must have worked up an appetite.
But the goodness that Apulian cuisine has to offer does not stop there. The time has come to go look at a completely vegetarian dish.
The dish we are going to look at now is fava beans and chicory. The ingredients used in the preparation of this dish are essentially two. Chicory and chickpeas.
My advice, if you decide to try this typical Apulian dish, is to look for a typical “trattoria”.
Usually, it is precisely the trattorias that prepare typical Apulian dishes and give some guarantee about the originality of the dish.
Meat in Puglia
Meat in Puglia, as well as in the southern Italian regions, plays a very important role in the cuisine.
Among the most common types of meat in the Puglia region are lamb and mutton. Lamb meat is distinctly more popular than mutton meat.
Lamb meat is raised in every part of Puglia and can be purchased either in butcher shops or tasted at street food stalls prepared on the grill.
Just as you had a chance to see in the section on typical Apulian main courses, the meat is used to prepare some of Apulia’s most iconic dishes, such as bombette.
Popular Cheese in Puglia you Must Try
If you are a cheese lover, I am sure you will be very happy after your vacation in Puglia. This is because Apulia produces different types of cheeses.
Although many of the types of cheeses you will find in Puglia are very reminiscent of, or similar to, those produced in other regions of Italy, understanding which ones are authentic to the Puglia region will make you more prepared during your next vacation. Now let’s look at what are the typical cheeses of Puglia.
Apulian caciocavallo, also known as provola in other regions of Italy, is one of the most widely consumed cheeses throughout the region.
The thing that makes this cheese distinguishable from other types of cheese are two: its shape, and its flavor. The shape of the Apulian caciocavallo is spherical at the bottom, and with a slight tip that is always spherical at the top.
While its flavor is sweet and mild.
Ricotta forte is part of the typical cheeses of Apulia. Its texture is very reminiscent of a spreadable cream.
If you are a lover of strong flavors, this is the cheese for you. The people of Apulia use this typical traditional cheese by spreading it on slices of bread or used as an alternative to mozzarella when making panzerotti.
Cacioricotta has something different from the other typical cheeses of the Apulia region. What? Its preparation.
Cacioricotta is prepared using different types of milk, including cow, goat, and sheep milk. It is then aged in different ways. In Apulia, cacioricotta is served with main courses or during aperitifs.
If you are on vacation or have planned to go on vacation to the provinces of Foggia, and Bari, do not miss the chance to taste CANESTRATO PUGLIESE D.O.P.
This cheese is made from the milk of sheep raised in the Apulian countryside.
The outer rind of the cheese is ridged and can take on different colors depending on the aging process.
Most Popular Dessert To Try in Puglia
After a long section of salty food and specialties that you will find in Apulia, now it is time to take a look at the most popular dessert that you can find in this sunny and beautiful region of south Italy.
Le cartelle is a typical dessert of the Christmas period. To be more precise, this Apulian dessert can be found in Foggia and nearby towns.
This sweet is prepared with a mixture of flour, oil, white wine, salt, and water. Once the mixture is completed, the dough is subsequently cut into strips with a toothed wheel. Once the process is completed, it is wrapped by getting a shape that resembles a rose.
Proceeding with the next one, we find the Apulian Pasticcitotto. This dessert is part of the most popular food to be found in Puglia.
Pasticciotto is made of a short pastry with a cream filling. This type of dessert is most present in Lecce. The outside of pasticiotti is crispy, while the inside is soft with custard.
What makes this dessert so good, especially in Puglia, is the use of lard. This typical Apulian dessert is eaten throughout the year, and it will not be difficult to find and try this dessert that represents Apulia.
Scarcelli Pugliesi (Available During Easter Period)
Scarcelle is an Apulian dessert that can only be found during the Easter season. If you walk into an Apulian pastry shop during the Easter season, you have almost a 100 percent chance of finding it.
Scarcelle Pugliesi is recognizable by their appearance. Recognizable by its doughnut-like appearance with a hard-boiled egg inside. The decoration of this typical Apulian dessert can be different. The classic ones are made for reasonable pigeons. Symbol of Easter.
The sweet “Sospiri” are a traditional sweet that in Puglia was prepared for weddings: it is a soft dough similar to a sponge cake that is cooked directly on the pan, then filled with lemon custard and covered with a sweet icing lemon. Anyway, it is important to mention that this sweet is not only present in Puglia, but you can find it in Calabria and Sicily too.
Apulia is a region rich in food and specialty to try. The good thing about this region is that every ingredient is produced in the territory, and in every part of Puglia that you will visit, you will find fresh ingredients. As you might be noticed, if you are vegan, you don’t encounter any problems in Puglia since most of the foods in Puglia are prepared only with vegetables. As for the others regions of southern Italy, Puglia cuisine is simple, and it is based on poor cuisine, made mainly with simple ingredients but very tasty. I hope that you really enjoyed reading this complete guide on food in Puglia and that you now have a better overview of what food to try once you arrive in Puglia.
Hey, I’m Giovanni, an Italian that lives in Italy and the author of this website! I started this website because I like to travel, discover new places and share my knowledge about Italy with more people worldwide. I love writing about everything regarding Italy, its culture, history, and lifestyle. I hope you found value in whatever article you read, and if you have any remaining questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!