Orecchiette – An Apulian Favourite

The word orecchiette means “small ears” in Italian. This is a particularly graphic name because the small round pasta pieces are turned up at one side and have a thick edge, which makes them look like little hats or ears. They are about two to three centimetres in diameter and are dome-shaped with a slightly ridged surface, making them perfect for scooping up sauces.

Orecchiette originated in Apulia and are the symbol of Bari, the capital of the region which is often referred to as the “heel” of the boot-shaped country. The ear-shaped pasta is no longer limited to Italy, but rather, is both known and loved worldwide. 

Food Facts Food Facts

Orecchiette

Nutritional group

carbohydrate

Calories

165 kcal (cooked in salt water, durum wheat semolina without egg) per 100g

Nutrients

32.8g carbohydrate, 2.4g fibre, 0.6g fat, 1.6g protein per 100g

Season

available year-round

Storage

store dry in a sealed container at room temperature

Shelf life

up to two years

Orecchiette – A French Invention?

Some may argue that orecchiette originated in Provence in France, where they have been documented as early as the Middle Ages. The pasta then supposedly made its way by boat to Apulia. Back then, the small pasta pieces were always made by hand from a thin strip of dough. It was then cut into pieces and a small hollow was pushed into the pasta dough with the thumb. 

Orecchiette – Make it at Home

When making orecchiette at home, you can adopt a similar method to the one outlined above. The basic recipe for the pasta dough consists of a teaspoon of salt and equal parts flour, semolina flour and lukewarm water – for four portions, use approximately 250 grams and millilitres, respectively. Once all the ingredients have been kneaded together into a smooth dough, leave it aside to rise for an hour. The ideal consistency is firm, supple and not cracked.

Following this, divide the dough into eight equal parts. Roll each piece out into approximately 30cm long strips. Then cut off slices measuring about half a centimetre thick and place each one over your thumb. Press it down firmly so that the pasta dough takes on its characteristic shape. Place each piece onto a baking sheet or tray and cover them. Cook the orecchiette for ten to twelve minutes in boiling, salted water. If making your own requires too much effort, you can buy the ear-shaped pasta both dried and fresh in the supermarket. 

Orecchiette – Combinations and Ideas

Traditionally, in Apulia, orecchiette was served with broccoli rabe – a green, leafy vegetable – or with a spicy tomato sauce. This particular type of pasta has always been the perfect accompaniment to sauces and pestos. An orecchiette salad is always a hit at barbecues – simply mix the small ear-shaped pasta with rocket, fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and mozzarella. Drizzle it with a light dressing made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Italian herbs.

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