Welcome to Villa Vesta, Ostuni, Puglia

Historically a relatively poor region, the traditional foods of Puglia were born from poverty.  Meals were made using whatever was in season and to hand.  The traditional pasta is made without eggs and there was little meat - protein came from beans and seafood.  Foraging for wild greens and fungi was necessary rather than fashionable!  Today Puglia is Italy’s main olive oil producing area and as such you will be spoilt for choice when it comes the delicious liquid gold.  Modern cooking still follows the old traditions and even today people eat local, seasonal produce with any surplus pickled, dried and otherwise preserved.  The locals haven’t lost the skills needed to live off the land, they know when something will be in season and what to do with it.  Even less well known foodstuffs are used - our gardener harvests myrtle, juniper berries, nespole (loquat), medlars and other wild fruits to concoct some interesting beverages!  On the subject of beverages, look out for the local wines.  Puglia’s wines were so important that the Greeks used to refer to the region as Enotria or “wineland”.  The traditional Primitivo and Negroamaro grapes make excellent rich reds.  Be careful when choosing whites, some still wines have a slight fizz which is not to everyone’s liking.  Locorotondo and Salento whites tend to be good.  Another favourite after dinner drink is Limoncello – alcohol, lemons and sugar – not to be drunk in big measures and best served ice cold.

Things you might see on a Puglian menu:

  • Orecchiette – a typical pasta of the region which literally means “little ears”.  This pasta is generally served con sugo (tomato sauce) and is delicious eaten simply with grated cacioricotta or con cime di rape (turnip tops).
  • Troccoli – large spaghetti
  • Lampascioni - wild hyacinth bulbs eaten like small pickled onions.
  • Burrata – deliciously soft and creamy - a mozzaralla shell filled with mozzarella and cream.
  • Scamorza – similar to mozzarella it can be smoked (scmorza affumicata).  Around Bariit tends to be made from sheeps rather than cows milk.
  • Pecorino –a hard sheep’s cheese which comes in many different maturities.  Percorino fresco is milder and with a softer texture and is favoured by our children; pecorino forte is more mature with a crumbly texture and a more nutty flavour.
  • Ricotta forte – a double fermented soft cheese often served as an antipasti with tomatoes, very strong and to my mind quite rancid!
  • Fico d’india – prickly pears (cactus fruit)
  • Cocomeri – a cross between a melon and cucumber - crisp and slightly sweet, delicious in a salad.
  • Anguria – watermelon
  • Carciofi – globe artichokes.
  • Fave – a broad bean and olive oil puree with a texture a bit like smooth mashed potato.
  • Bombette – meatballs.