Sophie’s Puglian Recipes

These are the recipes I cooked in my demonstrations at The Taste of Kent Show on 7th & 8th September, and also at Cressing Temple Barns on 28th & 29th September 2019.

Polpette di Pane Bread & Cheese Fritters

Orecchiete al Primitivo Orecchiete Pasta with Red Wine and Meatballs

Dolcetti di Pistacchii Pistacchio Biscuits

Polpette di Pane

Makes plenty, eat hot

120g stale bread of good quality

60-70g finely grated Cacioricotta, Rodez, Pecorino or Parmesan

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed


Sunflower oil (or a mix of sunflower and a dash or two of olive oil) for deep-frying

Break the bread up into chunks, crusts and all.  Soak in cold water for 10 minutes or so.   Squeeze out the water and plop into your mixing bowl.  Beat in all the remaining ingredients except the oil.  Don’t add salt – the cheese will be salty enough on its own. 

Use a deep-fat fryer if you have one, or if not heat a 7.5-10 cm depth of oil in a saucepan.  Slide in a test-run dessert spoonful of the batter mix and cook until golden brown, turning carefully once or twice.  This should take around 3-4 minutes. If it cooks too quickly, reduce the heat of the oil. 

Drain the fritter on kitchen paper, and bite into it as soon as the heat will let you.   The outside should be firm with a hint of crispness, the inside tender but set, and divinely cheesy.   Add more pepper if you like.  Now fry the rest of the batter, spoonful by spoonful, until you have a burnished heap of golden fritters.  

Orecchiette Al Primitivo di Manduria

Orecchiete Pasta with Red Wine and Meatballs

serves  4

For the meatballs:

300g minced beef or veal, or pork

75g soft or slightly stale breadcrumbs (crusts included)

75g freshly grated pecorino or parmesan

2-3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Salt if needed

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

And the rest:

300g orecchiette

1 red onion, chopped

250 ml Primitivo wine

To serve:

A little roughly chopped parsley

Freshly grated pecorino or parmesan

First make the meatballs (polpette):  mix the minced beef, cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, egg and pepper  thoroughly with your hands.  Don’t add salt yet – the cheese will probably have already done the job. Test for seasoning by rolling a tiny piece of the mixture  into a mini-patty and frying in a miserly smear of oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.  Now that’s sorted, roll the rest of the mixture into small balls.  Size-wise we’re talking around 2 cms in diameter.  

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a wide frying pan over a moderately lively heat.   Add the polpette (you should hear a hissing sizzle as they hit the oil – if you don’t then it isn’t hot enough).   Fry for a few minutes without disturbing, then shake the pan gently, to roll them over.   Fry until browned, scoop out and set aside.

Return the pan to a gentle heat, add 2-3 more tablespoons olive oil and add the onion.   Cook gently for about 10 minutes until very, very tender.

 Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil, and salt generously.   Add the orecchiette and simmer until cooked through (check packet instructions for timing).   Scoop out a cup of cooking water and reserve.  Drain the pasta.

Reheat the onion if necessary, pour in the red wine and let it sizzle for a minute or two until reduced by about half.  Tip in the meatballs and any juice they’ve given off.   Heat through, stirring so that the balls are all dyed a lush dark purple brown.   Now pile in the cooked pasta and 2 or 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water.  Stir so that the pasta, too, is stained purple.   Add a little more of the reserved cooking water if it seems dry but remember that it is not a dish that should be swamped in sauce.

Serve hot from the pan, scattered with parsley, and with oodles of freshly grated cheese.  

Dolcetti Di  Pistacchi

Soft almond  and pistachio biscuits

These little biscuits are simple to make and a joy to eat with their moist interior and gentle waft of lemon.

Makes 20

100g shelled pistachios

150g icing sugar, plus extra for rolling

100g ground almond

Finely grated zest 1 lemon

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Pinch of salt

Blitz the pistachios with the icing sugar until they are finely chopped.  Mix with the almonds, lemon zest and salt in a bowl. Add the egg white and mix until you have a soft dough. Knead briefly to smooth out, then wrap loosely in baking parchment and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160Fan/Gas 4. Dust the work surface with icing sugar. Divide your  dough in two. Roll each one out to form a plump sausage, 2-3 cms in diameter. Cut each sausage into 10 pieces. Round the corners and even up each piece with your fingers, to form a thick disc. Turn the base and top in icing sugar, and then place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. The biscuits will crack here and there, but should not be brown. Cool on a wire rack. Those that aren’t eaten straight away can be store in an airtight tin.

Bake for

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