Simple, tasty, great with any kind of cheese or cured meats.
Of all Salento’s many traditional products, puccia bread its probably the best known and most loved. Simple, tasty, great with any kind of cheese or cured meats, tourists often find it makes a good, quick lunch before resuming their travels.
Puccia is nothing more than a soft, thin, round flatbread, stonebaked and strictly over a wood fire, made with semolina flour and left to rise for some time. Whether you’re walking along the promenade or among the street kiosks in the historic city centre, or find yourself in a pizzeria or caffè you’re sure to see this tasty baked product on offer. Go on, how can you resist?! Choose from among lots of different varieties!
It should be said that this particular flat bread, half-way between unleavened bread and pizza, was first made for eating on religious feast days involving ritual fasting, like for example on the feast day of the Immacolata. Women used to eat this quick, simple food so that they could escape the kitchen and dedicate themselves to prayer.
Nowadays, though, it’s eaten anytime: for lunch or dinner and on any day of the year. In its modern version it comes with cured meat, cheese and potato crisps, with a tomato side salad. But you’ll also find more sophisticated combinations mixing seafood, onions, tuna, peppers, and mixed pickles – the more the merrier!
Puccia bread is such a proud boast among Salento people that more and more food festivals are springing up like mushrooms almost everywhere: any excuse when it comes to eating puccia! Of the many food festivals, the next one will be the ‘Sagra te la puccia’ in Supersano on 1 August, feast day of Madonna di Coelimanna.
A very common version is the ‘uliata’, puccia with olives, a traditional ‘sandwich’ that history dictates is filled with olives, complete with stone. Indeed, in one particular village, Caprarica di Lecce, a charity festival is being held in honour of the ‘uliata’ – this year it falls between 27-30 July. All proceeds will be going to Action Aid. There you’ll be able to try all the best traditional puccia breads, real treats for your taste buds, while listening to great music and enjoying the great atmosphere that every Salento festival has.
If you want to continue the culinary journey and discover more treasures of the Mediterranean diet, in Andrano (but also a little everywhere) you’ll find the cousin of the uliata, the ‘pitta cu le ulie’ – a foccaccia (pizza dough bread) that’s eaten every 3 August on the feast day of the Madonna dell’Attarico. Andrano is in a splendid location on a promontory jutting out into the sea, above the caves where the monks of Saint Basil used to live.
As always, the quest for the delicious, and for good cooking always leads to the discovery of more of the local traditions, customs and people’s favourite places.