Typical Salento cuisine is humble and simple but very nutritious and full of flavour. It mirrors the many lands that dominated the area and have left indelible traces of their presence in its culinary arts. In essence, it's also typical of a Mediterranean cuisine that is enhanced by the fragrance and flavour of the land and sea. Some meals have the most ancient origins as is the case of the dried figs (a great source of energy) that housewives in Roman times served their husbands or puccia e uliate – bread baked with black olives or even onions, tomatoes and a pinch of hot peppers. First courses like tagliatelle pasta with chick peas (ciceri e tria) are very popular dishes. Twisted pasta seasoned with tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and basil is called sagne 'ncannulate and are reminiscent of the Solomonic columns found in Baroque art and architecture.
Orecchiette and small macaroni (minchiareddhri) is a very genuine and popular dish that is delicious when seasoned with vegetables or meat. As far as second courses are concerned, the lack of large breeding farms actually helped inspire housewives to invent exquisite potato and ricotta focaccia stuffed with vegetables called pitte.
Turcinieddhri, a roulade made with lamb entrails and seasoned with herbs, is one of the oldest and most characteristic dishes of Salento cuisine. The need to eat a meal that could provide sustenance during a brief pause taken while toiling the land – an exhausting activity – forced the peasants to bring simple food to work with them that they could consume quickly: dries figs, dried legumes and frise barley biscuits (wheat biscuits were only eaten by richer folk), toasted bread that was soaked in water and then seasoned with tomatoes, oil, arugula and oregano. The triumph of the versatility of Salento cuisine is the taieddhra. It is made with zucchini, potatoes, artichokes, onions, tomatoes and black mussels.
Purceddhruzzi and 'ncarteddhrate are biscuits that are traditionally baked during the Christmas season. They are made with sweet dough flavoured with anise comfits and honey that is either rolled into balls or cut into strips and then wrapped into the shape of a rose. No meal would be complete without the two main products of this land that have come from its soil for thousands of years: wine and olive oil – the golden liquid that acquires a unique flavour and fragrance in this part of Italy.