Good Sunday News24/680.com food followers:
Today, I am sharing some moments from one of our most popular culinary tours and a recipe from the Puglia region of Italy. Looking forward to our next visit in 2021!
During our annual visit to the Southern Italian region of Puglia, our guests are treated to a wonderful walking and street food tour through the maze of streets in Old Town of Bari (Bari Vecchia). Stops include the historic waterfront and harbor to meet the local fishermen; Panificio Santa Rita Bakery to enjoy the best foccacia in the region, and of course, a visit with our friend, “Grace, “ one of the many Orecchiette Pasta Ladies of Bari. They make the quintessential pasta of the Puglia: ORECCHIETTE.
The name comes from Italian orecchia (ear), and -etta (small), as it resembles a small ear. Traditionally, the pasta is made only with durum wheat (semolina) and water. No eggs are used, as historically, they were unavailable.
Grace and the other ladies, make pasta for the locals, and have been for decades. Each day, they emerge from their homes, set up their work tables in the small alley in front of their homes, and with unbelievable speed never miss a beat, while chatting with neighbors and passersby. The pasta is dried on screens in the open air, and locals stop by during the day to purchase the pasta for their family meals. Grace, and her neighbors (some of whom are rivals), compete for the attention of the media, have become internationally recognized, and featured in cookbooks, travel magazines and food blogs, like mine!
Grace, a friend of Epicurean Exchange Culinary Travel, and a popular stop to visit during our walking tour of Old Town Bari.
Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli Rabe, Plum Tomatoes,
2 cups dried orecchiette pasta
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini)
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 – 15 ounce can whole, peeled Italian plum tomatoes, chopped, and juice reserved
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 – 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
4 ounces burrata cheese
• Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir vigorously to separate the “ears”, and cook (stirring occasionally) until al dente, 12 – 15 minutes depending on your preferred doneness. Remove the pasta from the water with a strainer (don’t drain the water), and set aside. Add the broccoli rabe to the pasta water. Par-boil the broccoli rabe for 5 minutes (this softens and removes some of the bitterness from the vegetable). Remove the broccoli rabe from the water and rough-chop into 1-inch pieces.
• In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the cooked broccoli rabe, and sauté in the hot oil, turning frequently with a pair of tongs, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes (with juice), and cook, turning frequently, for 3 – 4 minutes more.
• Fold the cooked pasta into the tomato mixture; add the Parmesan cheese and simmer for 2 – 3 minutes. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Lastly, add the red wine vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes more.
• Serve the pasta topped with fresh burrata cheese and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
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