Taralli Pugliesi. “History, recipes, and traditions about the most appreciated product of Puglia.”
Every region has its own “poor” gastronomic tradition, a series of dishes created by farmers centuries ago when supplies were scarce and it was necessary to be ingenious in order to eat something tasty. Apulia in this case is rich in culinary traditions and dishes created by the necessity and intuition of those who needed to survive the lean periods and among these traditions stands out the tasty “Tarallo”, the ring with an enveloping flavor which is part of the regional history.
ORIGINS OF THE RECIPE
The origin of the recipe of Taralli Pugliesi is usually dated back to the 1400’s, to the periods in which famine raged in the region. According to the legend, the first Tarallo was kneaded by a mother who, having nothing to feed her children, tried to work with what she had in her pantry: flour, extra virgin olive oil, salt, white wine, a series of products which were never lacking in Apulian pantries. He created a dough which was flattened in two thin strips, giving them the aspect of a ring which, after having been left to rise, was baked in the oven. The result was surprising, dictating the beginning of a tradition that still lasts today.
TARALLI PUGLIESI OVER THE YEARS
There were some small improvements over time: in addition to being baked, in order to give it that characteristic smoky aftertaste, the tarallo was also boiled in order to boil it and make it crispier and more particular; moreover, spices were added in order to flavor it, such as the classic fennel seeds or chopped olives. Son of popular creativity, tarallo positively marked the Apulian territory and changed the production of bakers throughout the region as well as the tables of the poorest: made with emergency ingredients easily available, mass produced, sold to everyone at a very low price. With time everyone learned to make them and housewives began to put their dough in oiled pans, the first “tielle”, going to cook the taralli in wood-fired ovens located in their villages.
The origins of its name are still uncertain: some think it may come from the Latin word “torrere” which means toasting, others say it owes its name to the Italic “tar” together with the French “danal” which in the past indicated the typical rolled bread beyond the Alps, some say it comes from the French “toral” which means “dryer”. However, the most accredited hypothesis are those that attribute its etymology to the Greek “daratos”, that is “kind of bread”.
The product spread easily in the whole Southern Italy, being adapted from territory to territory and from region to region. Typical Apulian characteristics are the preparation in extra virgin olive oil and the addition of spices ranging from fennel seeds to hot peppers, from olives to onions. As time went by, sweet versions of taralli pugliesi have also become popular, to be served with coffee or at the end of a meal: glazed with lemon or covered with chocolate, they always satisfy the recall to the traditional taste and to the simplicity which characterizes the countless methods used to make them. Simple, natural and light, the tarallo goes well everywhere: during an aperitif, accompanying olives, cold cuts and cheese, or making a special second course, or at the end of a meal in its variant with more sugar.
Characteristic is the expression “tarallucci e vino” (tarallo and wine) to indicate the classic matching of Apulian tarallo, perfect husband of Primitivo di Manduria, Nero di Troia or Negramaro. In ancient times, the most expert people believed it should be tasted soaked in sea water, but in this regard we think it is better to drink a good artisanal beer, with which it is now an inseparable duo in pubs and at the most traditional tables.
Thanks to its ductility and its unique taste it is now possible to find taralli pugliesi of every flavor: pizza, Mediterranean, onion, olives, oregano, sesame, hot pepper, pepper, mushrooms, cacio cheese, bacon and many others. The only limit, at the table, is imagination, but this is not a problem in Apulia where creativity is not lacking, especially at a gastronomical level.