Puglia Food Guide: Traditional Food in Puglia (+ 11 Dishes to Try)

The essential guide to Puglia food for visiting Puglia and the cities and towns of Apulia, Italy’s bountiful boot heel!

The Puglia region of Italy is a fertile region fast becoming a favorite destination among foodies and lovers of traditional Italian food. While that may be new, the high heel of Italy’s boot has long been a hot vacation destination for Italians looking for fun in the sun. But it’s the food in Puglia that turns a foodie’s head.

Thanks to ideal growing conditions boasting an arid climate with cooling sea breezes, the region was once known as the breadbasket of Italy for its abundance of wheat, and therefore pasta, that was produced here. 

Apulia (no “G”) is often referred to by its Latin name, Puglia, so as to confuse us foreigners. No matter what you call it, this is without a doubt one of the best food destinations in Italy.

But when it comes to Apulia food, there are more than a few surprises. And if you’re a fan of slow food, Puglia has many opportunities for shopping local markets, exploring the countryside and seeing agriculture firsthand, whether it’s on a food tour or dining in an excellent farm-to-fork restaurant.

Here you’ll find the regional food from Puglia to try when you visit, from staple foods and seasonal foods at the market to the traditional Puglia dishes to watch for — so many tantalizing foods to help you plan your culinary tour.

Puglia food guide to food in Puglia, Italy

Table of Contents (Click to Jump Ahead)

About Puglia, The Heel of the Boot

Intro to Puglia Food

Puglia Food Guide: Staple Foods and Ingredients

11 Typical and Traditional Puglia Dishes

Markets and Street Food in Puglia

Intro to Food in Puglia

Today, as much as 40% and probably at least half of Italy’s olive oil is produced in Apulia amid the flat farmlands the area is known for. Given the more than 50 million olive trees growing throughout the region, that’s not really a surprise. 

Aside from offering acres and acres of flatlands ideal for farming Apulia is blessed with 2,468 hours of sunshine a year and a cooly calming breeze flowing off the sea that surrounds the region on three sides.

Crops in the area include a plethora of olive varieties, artichoke, tomatoes (which are also commonly grown right on residents’ patios) grapes, peppers, mushrooms. Given that such a large portion of the land is oceanfront there’s also a never-ending supply of seafood available.

The Masseria

If you don’t have family in Puglia then the next best thing is to stay at a masseria. These fortified farmhouses are found all over the countryside and many offer guest accommodation. Similar to the agriturismos in Tuscany, or the Buschenshanks of Austria that serve beautiful cold charcuterie platters, their own wine and offer comfortable rooms for a night or two, the Masseria is a similar concept in Puglia.

Some masserias are high-end while others are far more rustic and comfortable. Often the experience is so local, you end up eating with the owners family for breakfast or dinner. Like an agristurismo, many masserie are working farms that make their own cheese, bread, olive oil and wine. The food is simple but delicious and it was the best way to try local specialities.

Puglia food guide to traditional food in Puglia

Puglia Food: Common Staples and Ingredients


The most commonly raised meat consumed in the Apuglia region is by far lamb meat or mutton. Horsemeat is another staple that’s available in the area, though not found as commonly as lamb. Lamb is the most commonly farmed meat and often prepared both by butchers and in traditional street food stalls in open wood-fired grills known as rosticerias

Take a stroll among its fascinating maze of narrow streets, and find a local trattoria serving Bombette di Alberobello, or Bombette Pugliese, made of rolls of pork meat, filled with a small piece of caciocavallo cheese, salami, salt, pepper and parsley.

Italian-Americans might find this dish similar to brasciole. But unlike brasciole, bombette are fixed by a toothpick, then strung on a skewer and barbeque-roasted. Bombette di Alberobello are uniquely crispy and juicy, and so delicious!


Far more readily available then meat in Puglia is an excellent source of protein — the bounty of fresh, locally-caught seafood. Pugliese cuisine features a wide selection of fish and seafood dishes with local species like swordfish (pesce spada), sea bass (spigola and branzino), mullet (triglia), and bream (orata).

But it’s the frutas di mare like sea urchins, octopus, cuttlefish, anchovies, mussels, scallops, razor clams, oysters, and squid that are most often enjoyed. In Bari, you’ll find these served raw in what’s known as “il crudo Barese”.

One interesting exception to the fresh seafood is Tarantello di Tonno, a unique and traditional food that’s been produced in Taranto, Puglia since around the 16th century. Fresh tuna is sliced thin and laid to dry in the sun, then the layers are preserved in olive oil to be used later in a variety of dishes.

It’s a staple in Pugliese cuisine with a rich history to go with it.



Puglia is one of Italy’s most famous cheese producing regions, and they produce many different types including caciocavallo, burrata, stracciatella and cacioricotta (goat cheese) among others. While some of these cheeses are also produced in neighboring regions like Calabria, Basilicata, and Campania, Puglia has their own unique variations.

Canestrato Pugliese - The only DOP cheese made exclusively in Puglia is canestrato Pugliese, a hard sheep’s milk cheese which gets its name from the small baskets (canestri) in which it is left to age. The popular Pugliese spring cheese is made in Foggia and Bari, and one of the popular tangy cheeses used for grating on everything from pasta to foccacia.

Caciocavallo Podolico - The area north of Puglia near Gargano is known for a variety of cheeses called caciocavallo Podolico, made from milk of the Podolian cows, a breed which produces very little milk and only in certain periods of the year. The balls of cheese are strung on a string by its navel, and left to age from a few months to six years in order to achieve its unique taste.

Marzotica - Another famous cheese produced in Puglia that hints at the region’s adherence to seasonality is Marzotica cheese, made in Lecce from a mixture of sheep and cow milk, is one of Puglia’s Spring cheeses traditionally produced in March (Marzo in Italian). As the name implies, this cheese is made once the sheep begin grazing on Spring grass — and you can literally taste that green grassiness in the cheese!

Burrata and Stracciatella - If you love soft creamy cheeses like the Amalfi Coast bufala mozzarella, Puglia’s burrata and stracciatella are both made with fresh cream and mozzarella cheese strings — it’s largely just the final shape or structure that defines which cheese it becomes.

Olives, one of the staple foods of Puglia

Specialty Fruit and Produce

Olives - Apulia is home to more than 50 million olive trees which is hard to imagine that amount of fruit every year! These trees not only make up the bulk of the olive trees in all of Italy, but the Apulia region is also home to some of the oldest living olive trees in the country! You’ll find four main olive breeds grown here including Corantina, Frantoio, Ogliarola Barese and Leccino.

Prickly Pear - The cuisine of Puglia included many foods unique to the southern landscape. One such fruit is that of the prickly pear, those orange-y lumps you see growing from the cactus plants on the arid plains of Puglia. They are the sweet and sappy opuntia, commonly called prickly pear, or by their Italian name fico d'India.

Whatever you call these sweet gems, they’re one of the most common fruits in Puglia between August and October. They’re healthy and delicious fruits similar to a kiwi.

Piselli nano di Zollino - These sweet, dwarf peas are one of Puglia’s most authentically local foods! These yellowish-brown peas resemble chick peas and are the pride of Zollino, a small town in Lecce which is one of nine towns in the Grecìa Salentina, an area where Griko — a variant of Greek — is still spoken.

The peas are hand selected at the harvest by the local elderly farmers, and stored for the following year’s sowing season which preserves its unique biodiversity. Not all the peas are stored however. Some are cooked in an earthenware pot, with garlic, onions, celery, fresh tomatoes, or tossed with tria pasta noodles.


Although Puglia may not enjoy the wine-making prowess of some other wine regions in Italy, it is building a reputation for the creation of deep, rich and fruity red wines, most especially those stemming from the Salento region. 

The area’s unique climate and fertile land make for perfect grape-growing conditions and more wine is being produced. Some must-try varieties include Nero di Troia and Negroamaro.

Pane de Altamura, Puglia food DOP

Pane de Altamura is one of Puglia’s DOP food specialties


If there is one Puglia food that is renowned throughout Italy, it’s the hearty wheat grown here. Apulia is a massive source of durum wheat in Italy, making it a carb lovers dream destination. So you could say bread and pasta in Puglia is a very big deal!

Add to that, a fun fact about the Italian food in Puglia — they also produce one of only six breads in Italy (out of over 1,000 varieties) to have garnered the prestigious DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) designation — Pane de Altamura.

Altamura Bread

Considering the history of baking bread in Altamura dates to the Roman times, tasting Pane de Altamura in Puglia is a pilgrimage for bread lovers and aspiring bakers everywhere.

Made of durum wheat flour cultivated in Altamura, the massive loaves of bread have an appealing round shape, and an external crust of 3mm in thickness, which guarantees a long lasting and soft crumb.



Pasta in Puglia is unlike some of the bright yellow pastas you may have eaten in northern Italy. That’s because the tagliatelle, papardelle, tortellini, and other pastas up north are egg pastas. The typical pastas of Puglia are made simply from flour and water. But the type of pasta in Puglia isn’t the only unique factor — the pasta shape is also indicative of this southern region.

Orecchiette - No other pasta in Italy is so closely tied to a region as Orecchiette, the pasta ears of Puglia. Orecchiette is a staple of local Apulian food and is widely available anywhere you can order pasta. The small cup-shaped pasta is an integral a part of the history of Apulia, just as the land’s many vineyards and the ocean breeze itself. The noodles are so named for their shape, which literally translates to “little ears”. 

In Bari the pasta is especially integral to the culture of the local communities. You can still today find the older generation making and selling orecchiette throughout the community. 

Cavatelli - While orecchiette is the most commonly found pasta in Bari and in all of Apugla, other very commonly found varieties in the city of Foggia in northern Puglia include cavatelli, curti, gruessi, stacchiotti, and troccoli. Strascinate and cecatelli are two more pasta shapes: the strascinate is a sort of unrolled Orecchiette while cecatelli is the shape of an unrolled cavatelli noodle.

Cavatelli was often found in my grandmother’s kitchen, served with her homemade sauce. She was from outside Foggia in northern Apulia. My grandfather was born in a small hill town outside Naples where lemon and citrus feature prominently in the cuisine. So it’s no surprise that one of my favorite Italian dishes to eat and to make is Cavatelli con Broccoli al Limone — it’s the perfect marriage of the two cultures of my Italian heritage.

Tria - Like the rest of Puglia, pasta is King, and the texture and shapes of pasta vary even within the region. In Lecce, the long Tria ribbon pasta noodle is popular.

You’ll find all of these pastas tossed with fresh seafood, simply mixed with tomatoes, olive oil and grated cheese, or with sauteed broccoli or rapini (broccoli rabe). Strascinate is sometimes served with a sauce of arugula, potatoes and fennel. Yum!

11 Must-Try Traditional Puglia Dishes

1. Acquasale

As you’d expect, bread in Puglia is perfect from loaf to mouth, and tearing it with your hands fresh from the oven is our favorite way to eat it — the entire loaf if I’m not careful! But you’ll also find bread added to salads and some soups and stews to thicken them.

Acquasala is a local salad similar to a Panzanella salad that puts stale Puglian bread to very good use. The salad is made from pieces of stale bread mixed with fresh tomatoes, basil and red onions, or simply a piece of stale crusty Apuglian bread topped with fresh tomatoes and fresh olive oil — more like a gazpacho than a salad as the liquid from the fresh veggies tastes like summer in a bowl.

Orecchiete with broccoli

2. Orecchiette con Cima di Rape

The most common dish made with orecchiette is Orecchiette con Cima di Rape (orecchiette with broccoli rabe), a bitter form of broccoli common in Apulia. You’ll even find orecchiette as an interesting Bari street food, served in small cups on the go.


Baccala, or salt cod fish, is a favorite fish in Italy, and Pugliese-style is so delicious. You’ll find this regional variation baked in the oven with Salento-style potatoes and sometimes sun-ripened tomatoes.

Bombette Pugliese cuisine

4. Bombette Pugliese

Meat doesn’t play a major part in traditional Puglia cuisine — it was typically a special occasion food in the past — but as we mentioned above, lamb and port are commonly found on the menu today. Despite this, one of the most popular foods of Puglia today has to be BOMBETTE (pork rolls filled with cheese).

5. Pizza and Foccacia

Focaccia in Bari is known for being topped with an abundance of local vine-ripened and sun-dried cherry tomatoes, locally grown kalamata olives, and just the right Italian seasonings.  The traditional crispy Focaccia Pugliese dough is made with 00 Flour, a flour typically made from durum wheat that is light and high in protein, and results in the traditional crispy dough.

However, if you decide to give the recipe for this popular Bari street food a try at home and don’t happen to have any 00 Flour on-hand, All-Purpose flour is commonly substituted in the United States. 

Pizza Rustica is another pizza-like favorite of Puglia, though this one is a filled pie similar to the panzerotti. If you happen to be in Salento, try the Rustico Leccese, a puff pastry filled with tomato, cheese, and bechamel sauce.

Tiella Barese, typical Puglia food

6. Tiella Barese

The traditional Tiella Barese is very popular among locals and tourists thanks to its unusual combination that defines this regional dish: Puglian mussels, rice, and potatoes, baked in the oven. The word tiella comes from the traditional pan used to bake the dish — a large bowl with a clay bottom. Adding pieces of local tomato, onion, and spices like oregano makes Tiella Barese a colorful recipe that packs a ton of flavor. It’s surely one of the most famous of Bari foods.

7. Ciceri e Tria

In the city of Lecce, food is varied from other parts of Puglia but still incorporates some staple ingredients of Puglia cuisine. A popular dish commonly served in the baroque city of Lecce is Ciceri e Tria made with Tria, the local ribbon-shaped pasta — get ready to drool!

Loosely translated, Ciceri e Tria means chickpeas and pasta. The hard chickpeas used to make this dish are soaked overnight to soften them (though you can use canned chickpeas, rinsed well, if you want to make it at home). Then they’re simmered until tender with a selection of bright aromatic seasonal vegetables. 

The noodles for this dish are prepared from scratch by mixing water, salt and local durum wheat which is a staple crop of the Tavoliere plain in the northern part of Apulia. 

Now here’s where things really get interesting — about a quarter of the noodles are fried while the rest are simmered together with the chickpeas. The end result is a tantalizing mixture of fried pasta, soft slurpy simmered pasta, and chickpeas served with fresh parsley and hot red peppers. 

Ciceri e Tria, fried and soft noodles with chick peas

Ciceri e Tria, a blend of fried and soft noodles with chick peas

Vegetarian Dishes

Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! You might be hard-pressed to find as many options in some parts of Italy as you will in Puglia! No matter which part of the year you travel to Puglia, you’ll taste superb dishes prepared with fresh and flavorful seasonal ingredients.

8. Fave e Cicorie

A simple dish made with locally ingredients, this dish is simply a fava bean puree tossed with local greens, typically chickory, a slightly bitter but substantial green that’s often used in soups and stews.

9. Parmigiana di Melanzane / Parmigiana di Carciofi

Two hearty and delicious veggie dishes you’ll commonly find in Puglia include these two similar parmesan dishes - one made with eggplant (melanzane) and the other with artichokes (carciofi). The simple preparation most often includes the main ingredient tossed generously with olive oil and parmesan cheese, then topped with a soft cheese like mozzarella and homemade breadcrumbs.

10. Sgagliozze (fried polenta)

If you want to witness an age-old tradition in Bari, look for the Italian ladies making fried polenta on the street corner. You may not think of polenta as a typical product of southern Italy, much less of a seaside town like Bari, the tradition of sgagliozze has been in Puglia since ancient times when semolina wheat and olive oil married into a perfect fried cake. It’s worth finding and the experience of seeing it being made is the icing on top!


Dessert in Puglia typically includes a light pastry of some sort flavored with almonds, and one of these popular desserts you’ll find in Puglia is the delicious pasticciotti (pronounced pah-sti-CHAW-ti) from Lecce. The must-eat pastry of Puglia!

Markets and Street Food

We always love trying Italy’s street food wherever we travel in the country, and while you won’t find the variety of street food in Puglia as you would in some other Italian cities, there are several favorites to look out for.

Puglia Street food is similar to what you might find in the US or New York City — scrumptious and doughy hand-held foods like the famous calzone-like Panzerotto or the typical Focaccia Barese for which Puglia is so well known.

As with most traditional Apulia street food with Italian village peasant-era roots, the recipe has been changed and adapted within homes depending on what ingredients are readily available. Variations are also influenced by locally grown produce available within the region at any given time, and then later by local chefs experimenting with varying flavors until the end results are pretty much infinite. 

Panzerotti, a popular street food in Puglia

Panzerotti - One of the most popular and well-known street foods to have originated from Puglia is Panzerotti. Created when Italy was a poor country, panzerotti is one of Puglia’s most delicious peasant dishes and popular Puglia street food. 

Traditionally, people of Puglia used leftover bread dough to make Panzerotti and the finished result looks like a mini-calzone. The Panzerotti though, unlike the calzone can be held right in the plan of your hand and is the perfect size for on-the-go munching. 

The dish was traditionally and is still largely made today using simple ingredients found in most Pugliese homes. The most traditional Panzerotti is filled with mozzarella cheese and locally grown tomatoes, and seasoned with oregano. 

Look for other popular variations which might add anchovies, prosciutto, olives, ricotta forte, and scamorza cheese.

Focaccia Pugliese (Ruoto di Focaccia Barese) - Throughout Italy, you’ll find many varieties of Focaccia all made a little bit differently based on where and by whom it’s created. In Bari, you’ll find Focaccia Pugliese is also referred to as Ruoto di Focaccia Barese which translates to Focaccia Wheel from Bari.

The Saturday Market in Ostuni

If you find yourself in Ostuni on a Saturday morning you might want to carve out a little time to visit the market. It’s not a spectacular market by some people’s standards. It is, however, a wonderful place to find a vast collection of local foods on offer all in one place at the same time.

The Ostuni market also has a large amount of clothing, purses and shoes, as well as jewelry, both made locally and from afar — even foodies need to shop — but we promise the food is all that too!

Amidst the city’s fantastic views of the sea, you’ll find locally grown fruits, tomatoes, round cucumbers, and beans like the locally grown lupini bean, local walnuts, figs, and specialty items like almonds soaked in brine. Look for the vendors selling caciocavallo cheeses they have hanging by a string.

Given the city’s coastal location you’ll also be treated to local seafood and other fruits de mare. It’s never surprising to see trays of snails offered at local eateries and markets! 

Why We Loved Puglia Food (and you will too)

I learned long ago that my constitution does well eating certain kinds of foods. While both of us eat meat, we’re far from carnivores (unless we find ourselves in Emilia Romagna). The food of Puglia is based largely on some of our favorite foods — durum wheat pastas, fresh local produce, and lots of fruits and veggies. The fact that meat is almost secondary suits many people, including us, very well.

Like we mentioned, if you’re vegetarian, Pugliese food will be a welcome addition to your Italy foodie bucket list.

There’s a lot to love about Puglia food. It honors seasonality. It’s the cucina povera of Italy — simple ingredients for the most flavorful dishes. But perhaps the most wonderful thing about visiting Apulia is that it’s one of the country’s most under-visited tourist destinations.

In fact, places like the Saturday Market in Ostuni really aren’t well-traveled at all, which gives the foodie in you time to travel the region slowly. Time to enjoy the sights and smells, and taste the flavors as a local would.