The Dish from Lecce: Il Rustico Leccese

Rustico Leccese - Savory Pastry from Salento



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.****


Related Posts:

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



  1. lisa
    August 16th

    ohhhhh…you are wetting my appetite! can’t wait to me Yle, who you talk about above! I am defly trying one of these when my feet touch Lecce land in 2.5 weeks…but hey, who’s counting :)
    Thank you for your awesome blog and posts….love it!!!

  2. Kathy
    August 16th

    Lisa – I’m so glad to hear my posts, especially those on Lecce & Salento have been hopeful. I’m sure your tour/class with Ylenia will be fabulous.

  3. It’s not even midday and I’m thinking of these with an aperitvo!

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