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Apulian Cooking
Burnt grain From the original Foggiano paupers’ dish, to an exquisite recipe for refined palates.
In the past, after the stubble had been burnt, the peasants could keep the scorched kernels left on the ground for themselves and they used to make flour from it. These days that flavor is achieved by toasting the grain
by Dario Ersetti
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Photo by Dario Ersetti

      In times long past, after the grain was harvested by hand, the stubble was set on fire and the few grain seeds that had fallen to the ground were burned. Landowners gave the farmers the privilege to harvest these seeds and keep them (today it would be called a benefit). After being milled, the flour that was produced was used to make focaccia bread and various types of pasta. That was “the burnt grain”. Today this type of harvest is forbidden because grain burnt in that way is considered carcinogenic, but even if it were not, the cost of the harvest would be prohibitive. The modern version of “burnt grain” is simply toasted to the right point to obtain that typical smoked flavor.

      To bring out the characteristic taste of the pasta it is a good idea to combine it with a delicate flavored sauce.

      The pasta is made in the usual way, with flour, water, and a pinch of salt.

      An important piece of advice: you need to mix 2 parts of double shifted whole grain wheat flour with one part burnt grain flour to obtain the right quantity of gluten. The area of origin for this pasta is probably Foggiano (considered to be the “granary of Italy”.) The pasta shapes are typically Apulian, for the most part “strascinati” and “fusilli”.

 

 

Recipe

 

4 servings:

 

- 400 g of fusilli

- 250 g of cherry tomatoes

- 1 clove of garlic

- smoked salty ricotta

- extra virgin olive oil

- salt

 

      Boil pasta in an abundance of salted water until it is al dente. In a heated skillet, toss the quartered cherry tomatoes with olive oil and garlic. Drain the pasta, and pour it into the skillet with the tomato mixture and toss together for two minutes. Top with grated smoked ricotta cheese. It is a simple yet exquisite recipe.

      A summer alternative, that does not belong to the Apulian gastronomical tradition but could have the right to become part, considering its typical ingredients, is the following: dress the pasta with a prepared salad of diced tomatoes, some hand-minced basil leaves, a pinch of fresh oregano, capers, and pitted black olives, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Taste for salt, and let it sit for an hour. A minced salty anchovy, in place of salt, will give the pasta a fresher taste. To complete the dish, sprinkle it with slivers of cacioricotta cheese. Delicious!

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