- FEBRUARY 2018 -
HOME - Puglia - Apulian Cooking - Lecce’s “rustico”
Apulian Cooking
Lecce’s “rustico” Delicious street food found in nearly every cafe in Lecce and the surrounding area.
Nobody knows where and when it was invented but it is certainly a “cousin” of other delicacies made with pastry similar to our puff pastry in the Balkans and the Middle East
by Dario Ersetti
SHARE Facebook Twitter

Freshly baked “Rustici leccesi”. Photo by Dario Ersetti

The only thing we know for sure about the origin of this food is that we have no historical evidence. Some people think it had “noble” origins, being invented in some palazzo belonging to Lecce’s aristocracy, considering that it uses béchamel and puff pastry which probably came from France. We think, however, that the idea came more simply from across the Adriatic. We feel the rustico is more a street food than a dish to serve at an elegant dinner. It can be found in all the cafes, takeaways and cake shops in Salento.

And on the other side of the Adriatic there’s the burek (also spelled börek and many other ways), a roll of phyllo pastry containing cheese, or meat, or vegetables.

If while on holiday in Greece or Albania you taste a cheese burek and when you get back to Lecce you want to make it, first of all you’ll have to replace the phyllo pastry (which in the past didn’t exist in Italy and is still hard to find in Lecce) with puff pastry and also use mozzarella fior di latte made of cow’s milk instead of feta, then add a bit of tomato to make it lighter and béchamel to absorb the liquids: and there you have the rustico Leccese!

Phyllo pastry is a very thin sheet of pastry (flour and water) used all over the Middle East and the Balkans, as far as Austria, to make savory and sweet dishes. It was introduced by the Ottomans who had discovered it further to the east, perhaps beyond Persia. In the Maghreb it corresponds directly to brik pastry, which in appearance and ingredients is the same as phyllo.

On the subject of so-called modern cuisine, it’s worth remembering that gastronomy began in Persia and that, in spite of everything, they have three or four thousand years more experience than us. Evidence of this is the famous Tabriz köftesi (meatballs) and also phyllo pastry.

How are these paper-thin sheets made? The traditional method is to make a dough of flour and water and form it into a small cake which is thrown onto a hot griddle. The skill lies in the speed of performing the action, filling the whole griddle with a sheet of pastry of even thickness, so that the cooking will also be even. It is a kind of magic trick that seems like a miracle.

The pastry sold commercially, factory made, is spread out in a very thin layer, sprinkled with corn starch with potassium sorbate added and then placed between sheets of cotton to absorb the moisture.

To make brik pastry, on the other hand, you have to create a very runny mixture of flour and water and have a cup of oil on hand. The hot griddle is brushed with oil and then immediately, off the heat, brushed with the flour and water mixture. The griddle is returned to the heat and the sheet of pastry is removed when it becomes transparent. Easier said than done!

A well-tried use of phyllo pastry or brik is to create a series of layers with a little fat, usually butter, between them, producing a sort of puff pastry, but with a much more delicate consistency. This pastry, in layers alternated with minced walnuts and pistachios and then practically immersed in honey, is used to make the famous baklava, an exquisite sweet common from Israel and Turkey to Slovenia and Bulgaria. The best baklava is considered to be the kind made in Argirocastro, in Albania, and the most experienced cooks manage to make it with over a hundred layers of pastry.



The recipe


   For 6 rustici:


- 12 circles of puff pastry 10cm in diameter

- 90 g of béchamel sauce

- 20 g of grated mozzarella

- 30 g of tomato “salsa”


Cut the puff pastry into circles 10 cm in diameter. Place a circle on the work bench, brush with beaten egg. In the center, place béchamel mixed with mozzarella and tomato. With your hands, stretch another circle to a diameter of 12/13 cm and place it over the base circle. Press the edges to close in the filling and with an 8 cm pastry cutter pasta, seal the pastry well. Brush with beaten egg.

Cook in the oven at 180° for about 10 minutes.

More articles
Apulian Cooking   Flour gnocchi with scrum Apulian Cooking   The scapece of Gallipoli Apulian Cooking   Cupeta An irresistibile delicacy Apulian Cooking   Simulata with mussels Apulian Cooking   Sardine fishballs Apulian Cooking   “Fruttone”, the other face of the pasticciotto Apulian Cooking   Potato and zucchini soup Apulian Cooking   Oven-baked pasta with eggplant and tomatoes Apulian Cooking   Filled wafers Apulian Cooking   Cuttlefish with artichokes and potatoes Apulian Cooking   Pisieddhri a cecamariti (Peas cecamariti-style) or Pisieddhri cu li muersi (Peas with fried bread) Apulian Cooking   Fish soup - Taranto style MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Fish A precious part of healthy eating Apulian Cooking   Puccia, pizzi and other delicacies Apulian Cooking   Troccoli with octopus sauce MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Octopus Few calories, good proteins Apulian Cooking   Cherry pistofatru MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Cherries, a miracle of goodness Apulian Cooking   Apostles’ fingers MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Ricotta Tasty, nutritious and light Apulian Cooking   Soup of cicerchie “alla pizzaiola” MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Cicerchia In pursuit of old-time flavors Apulian Cooking   Marzipan fruit Apulian Cooking   Troccoli with walnut sauce MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Walnuts Topping up on antioxidants Apulian Cooking   Spaghetti with clams and samphire MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Clams Low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals Apulian Cooking   Pot of spring vegetables MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Potatoes Apulian Cooking   Scarcella …one of the Easter delicacies MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Eggs, an extraordinary food Apulian Cooking   Marzotica …a taste of spring MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Marzotica ricotta For a calcium hit Apulian Cooking   Maritati with fresh breadcrumbs MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Anchovies A “poor fish” rich in goodness Apulian Cooking   Lentils with lampascioni (grape hyacinths bulbs) MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Lampascioni (Grape hyacinth bulbs) The viagra of the Ancients Apulian Cooking   Cakes An alternative to panettone and purceddhruzzi Apulian Cooking   Pasta with black chick peas from the Foggia Murge Apulian Cooking   “Olive leaves” Pasta with olives MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Olives, good and healthy Apulian Cooking   Green peppers with mussels MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Garlic A natural antibiotic Apulian Cooking   Spumone MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Everything you need to know about ice-cream Apulian Cooking   Apulian calzone Apulian Cooking   Foglie mischiate (mixed leaves) MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Wild herbs, precious for health Apulian Cooking   Baccalà with spunzali MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Onions, a concentration of beneficial properties Apulian Cooking   Artichoke parmigiana MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Artichokes …so tasty and precious for our health Apulian Cooking   Purceddhruzzi and carteddhrate to sweeten your Christmas MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Honey A prodigious food Apulian Cooking   Apulian focaccia MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Eulogy to carbohydrates Apulian Cooking   Red mullet with tomatoes MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Fish Protein of high biological quality Apulian Cooking   Poor Man’s style zucchini MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Zucchini An ideal summer food for the table Apulian Cooking   Stuffed pepper rolls MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Peppers Super-concentrated
with vitamin C
Apulian Cooking   Pea soup MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Fresh peas Lots of vitamins and the taste of Spring Apulian Cooking   Almond paste Easter lambs MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Almonds So good …and precious for health and beauty Apulian Cooking   St. Joseph’s zeppole MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Sweets How to stay in shape without feeling deprived Apulian Cooking   Tubettini pasta with mussels MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Mussels 
For a full serving of minerals
 Apulian Cooking   Ciceri e tria (pasta and chickpeas) MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Chickpeas Precious for good health and very tasty too Apulian Cooking   Pittule MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Extra virgin olive oil elixir of health and beauty Apulian Cooking   Leccese Quince MEDITERRANEAN DIET   The innumerable qualities of quince Apulian Cooking   Lecce’s eggplant parmigiana MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Eggplant, depurative and very tasty Apulian Cooking   Burnt grain MEDITERRANEAN DIET   The tomato king of good health and beauty Apulian Cooking   Pasticciotto, a delight from Salento MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Pasticciotto Apulian Cooking   Purée of fresh fava beans with chicory from Galatina MEDITERRANEAN DIET   Fresh fava beans Chock full of energy and beauty Apulian Cooking   Orecchiette with broccoli rabe MEDITERRANEAN DIET   What makes them good for you…