To be able to become extraordinarily modern, the Monti Dauni cuisine has needed to do nothing more than remain as it is over the centuries. Today, the contemporary taste seeks fresh flavours, simple preparations and local ingredients. Just as it has always been done in these mountains. Pure perfection, for example, is the simplicity of Italian bread soup, called Pancotto, a preparation which is even more primitive than it is rustic. Yet it is strictly (and unknowingly) created according to the rules of the current gourmandise: well identified ingredients from the immediate area with flavours juxtaposed, not interbred, and perfect cooking. The recipe is elementary, it is cooked with stale bread together with the vegetables of the field that are in season, maybe adding a few potatoes and some beans and then drizzling everything with the Dauno DOP extra virgin olive oil. Simple yet intense, just like a short poem. The Pancotto can be found everywhere, but to taste the other delicacies, it is best to factor in some time travelling around as they are the specialities of various villages.
In Ascoli Satriano you can of course go to admire the famous Griffins but this will also be the opportunity to taste a ‘splendid bread’ – as described by Horace in his ode - made with durum wheat flour and natural yeast. With a good bread there is nothing better than a slice of Italian prosciutto. You only need to go a few miles to find an exceptional one in Faeto. Southern Italy also knows how to make a good prosciutto and here it is made from the thighs of native black pigs from Puglia, reared in the wild and aged with the special microclimate of the Faetana mountain, more than 800 metres high.
Soffritto, the Italian Sauté, has nothing to do with chopping onion. It is actually different cuts of pork reduced into pieces and fried with peppers in vinegar, potatoes and black olives. You will find it in all the regions of the Monti Dauni, but to discover the very best we advise you to go to Bovino, where every year in March there is the ‘Duel of the Soffritto’ which many of the Villages in the Monti Dauni participate in. Spring is also the season for the exquisite asparagus of Candela and Orsara di Puglia. If, instead, you go to the Monti Dauni in the summer, bear in mind that in the woods of Biccari and Roseto Valfortore there is a valuable summer truffle (called ‘scorzone’).
At the end of the meal you need a good cheese. You can move on to Monteleone di Puglia for a delicious caciocavallo cheese and for dessert we suggest you head to Troia to sample the Passionata, an elegant sweet made with ricotta and almond paste. The wines to accompany these Monti Dauni specialties are mainly obtained from native cultivars. The Nero di Troia (100% Troia grape) is finally experiencing a well-deserved moment of fame. It is a wine with a strong personality, tannic and with a high content of polyphenols, ideal to accompany more rustic and tasty dishes. Another red to taste carefully is the Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera. Ruby red in colour, it is obtained from up to 60% Troia grape and then Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Malvasia nera di Brindisi and Bombino Bianco. With little tannin, it goes well with meats and fresh pasta with tasty Puglia sauce. An ancient native grape fortunately saved from extinction is the Tuccanese of Orsara. The resulting wine is a light ruby colour, with a slightly spicy smell, a balanced flavour and a nice soft tannin. A real surprise for those who do not know it.
Photo credits: @Tiziano La Torre