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Orecchiette

Dry, traditionally with turnip greens, but also with tomato and ricotta cheese

Central and southern Italy, especially Puglia and the region around Bari
The industrial version is widespread throughout Italy

Orecchiette, or "small ears" to which shape they owe their name, are prepared by cutting up the dough (made from durum wheat flour and water) into pieces as large as beans. On a work surface these are then dragged with the tip of a finger or a knife to form a small shell with a very thin edge, which is subsequently turned inside out. They are called orecchini in Rome, recchiatelle in Campania, and orecchia di prete in Abruzzo and Basilicata. In their native Puglia, they are known by different names in different areas, depending on their size.

Orecchiette

This is one of the oldest Italian pastas. The roughness of the central hollow absorbs the sauce to perfection. Orecchiette may have originated in Provence. The existence of a similar type of pasta in the south of France has been documented since the Middle Ages. Some historians believe that it was brought into Italy by the Angevins, a noble family of Frankish origin who governed Puglia and Basilicata in the thirteenth century. Other historians argue that orecchiette, which show a Middle Eastern influence, probably originated in the territory of Sannicandro di Bari, in Puglia, during the Norman-Swabian rule, between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and that they derive from a traditional Jewish recipe, brought to the region by a thriving Jewish community.

A recipe

Orecchiette

Puglia-style orecchiette with cherry tomatoes, olives, and eggplant

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • ¾ lb orecchiette, pugliesi
  • 1 eggplant
  • 10 plum tomatoes, ripened
  • 3 ½ oz olives
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt and black pepper

Preparation:

Put the eggplant in a colander, salt it lightly and allow it to drain for about 30 minutes. In a large shallow pan over medium heat, toss the eggplant with the oil, a dash of black pepper, and the whole garlic clove. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
Halve the olives and add them to the sauce. Remove the garlic clove. Add the rosemary and stir to combine. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orecchiette until al dente; drain. Toss pasta with the sauce and serve.