I have been in love with the cuisine of Puglia since my first trip to this unique region many, many years ago. We were fortunate enough to spend two weeks there on a combined biking and gourmet adventure that rekindled my appreciation for Pugliese dishes, and upon my return to Umbria, I have been slowly adding more recipes from Puglia to my blog.
I first tasted this dish on a trip to Puglia in July of 2011, and I have made it many times over the years since then. The first time I enjoyed this pasta, we were in Alberobello, the home of the trulli or cone houses, and it was so hot we didn’t think we could even eat lunch. We stopped at a small restaurant in the old town, and this pasta was served to us. Despite thinking we had lost our appetites due to the heat, we all devoured this pasta and enjoyed every last bite.
This dish is a simple one created when ripe garden tomatoes are plentiful to be enjoyed on long, hot summer days. The ingredients are few, but for the best results, you need to use quality ingredients. The most unique ingredient that makes this dish truly Pugliese is the Ricotta Salata. This is a hard cheese made from the whey part of sheep milk, which is pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days. It is milky white in color with firm texture and salty taste. This cheese is great grated on pasta or is also tasty crumbled on top of salads.
In Puglia, I have only enjoyed this dish with orecchiette pasta which is the traditional pasta shape served with this sauce, but you could use any short pasta shape if you wanted to. Just ensure that you use fresh, very ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and a good quality extra virgin olive oil. The pine nuts are optional, but they do add a nice crunchy texture to this dish.
- 1 Pound Orecchiette Pasta
- 1 Pound (About 2 Cups) Chopped Ripe Tomatoes
- 2 Garlic Clove, Minced
- Pepper To Taste
- 4 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
- 1/2 Cup Pine Nuts, Crushed
- 4 Ounces Ricotta Salata Cheese, Grated & Divided
- A couple of hours before dinner, in a small bowl, mix together the tomatoes, garlic, pepper, basil, pine nuts, half the grated Ricotta Salata, and about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil.
- Stir well, cover and let the flavors meld until ready to serve.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then cook the orecchiette “al dente” according to the package instructions.
- Drain, return the pasta to the pot, then add the sauce.
- Toss to mix well.
- Serve, offering additional Ricotta Salata at the table.