Professionally trained chef and owner of Food Lover's Odyssey Vacations. Sharing my love for the food, wine and culture of Italy and France with travelers since 2009.Read More
Much of the cuisine of Puglia and Salento has roots in cucina povera. Because of that, it's a bit ironic that in Salento's capital, Lecce, one of its most popular street foods is said to have nobile origins. It's name is Il Rustico Leccese, a little "sandwich" of bechamel sauce, chopped tomatoes and mozzarella cheese enclosed by two circles of puff pastry. And, there's also pepper q.b., shorthand for quanto basto (translated: an amount that is enough).
The story behind il rustico is vague, but legend has it that chefs from the nobile houses of Lecce created it as an interpretation of the French vol au vent. The puff in this pastry, however, comes from strutto (lard) not butter. With butter each layer is flaky and crisp; with lard, the pastry layers have a richer and softer, almost pillow-like, texture. You'll notice the difference in the first bite.
The layers of pastry, rich bechamel sauce, melted mozzarella and sweet tomatoes combine to make one of these little rounds a very filling snack. As Ylenia suggests, it's perfect with an aperitivo. Once from behind the baroque courtyards of Lecce, only chefs of nobility made these savory pastries, now you can find them at any forno in the city.
Like French breakfast pastries (Viennoiserie) or the Neapolitan sfogliatella riccia, the rustico is best hot and right out of the oven. Also like those pastries, it is labor intensive, especially when you want only a few at home. A "dish" that's particular to Lecce and Salento (the southern region in Puglia), you won't find them in northern Puglia. Rustico is one of those regional Salentine foods not to miss.
me in Puglia in 2013! For this food lover's culinary tour, we'll be
cooking with our beautiful Italian mamme
and professional chefs. We'll also be eating and exploring our way through
the region. There are four tour dates available from which
to choose! For tour details, check out this page: Culinary Tours in Puglia 2013!
***Early booking discount: Book and pay by check by January 31, 2013 and receive a $200 discount off the tour price.****
The Dish from Puglia: Ricci di Mare (sea urchins) from Porto Badisco
The Dish from Puglia: Friselle with Tomatoes
The Pastries of Lecce with Pastry Chef Luca Capilungo
Art of Making Pasta by Hand: Pugliese Pasta Lesson with Nonna Vata
Classic Salentino Cuisine Reinvented at Bar Sette di Sette in Lecce
Making and Eating Fresh Cheese in Puglia
Shopping and Eating Local in Italy – Farmers' Market in Lecce
Tour of Lecce: The Baroque Beauty of Puglia
Masseria L'Astore and its Frantoio Ipogeo (ancient olive mill)
Lunch salento Style at Cantine Menhir
The Dish from Dordogne: Duck
The Dish from France: Viennoiserie
The Dish from Naples: Pizza Margherita Napoletana
Five Favorite Food Words in Italian and Five More Favorites