The Isole Tremiti are an archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, north of the Gargano Peninsula. They form part of the Gargano National Park. The name of the islands relates to their seismic danger with a history of earthquakes in the area: tremiti means “tremors”. Thousands of years of history can be found in this small archipelago and it is preserved in a large open-air museum.
San Domino is the most developed island and has the only sand beach in the archipelago.
San Nicola is where most of the population resides. It is the site of a monastery where a monk named Nicolò was buried. Legend has it that every time someone tried to move his corpse off the island, a violent storm would break out, preventing navigation around the island.
Capraia is deserted.
Cretaccio is a large block of clay and uninhabited.
Pianosa is a small, uninhabited island. Sometimes, during storms, the waves cover it.
The Archipelago Sea is characterized by crystal-clear waters that allow light to penetrate to great depths. Another interesting aspect is the presence of numerous underwater caves, which were created by the erosion of the limestone. The different configurations of the three islands and coasts are reflected in the type of seabed around them. The south-eastern slopes of San Domino and Caprara have a rocky bottom which extends to a depth of no more than 10-15 m. Near the island of St. Nicholas, the rocky bottom is made up of collapsed stones. While Caprara’s coastline, has a rocky bottom that does not exceed 30 meters. The north-west coast is characterized by high, steep cliffs.
The islands were used for the internment of political prisoners during Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. The islands have been a confinement place since ancient times. Emperor Augustus had his granddaughter, Julia the Younger, exiled to one of these islands, then named Trimerus, where she died after 20 years.
In the Middle Ages the archipelago was ruled by the Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare (“Holy Mary on the Sea”) at San Nicola island, apparently founded in the 9th century by Benedictine monks from Montecassino. In 1334 the abbey was destroyed by Dalmatian pirates from Omiš. In 1412 the Lateran Canons took ownership of the islands and restored the abbey with cisterns and fortifications that were able to withstand the assault of Ottoman ships in 1567. The abbey was taken over in 1783 by King Ferdinand IV of Naples, who set up a penal colony. During the Napoleonic age, the islands were a stronghold of Joachim Murat’s supporters, who resisted a British fleet in 1809. In 1843, to repopulate the islands, King Ferdinand II of Two Sicilies moved a number of people from the Naples’ slums to the islands and most became fishermen. In 1911, about 1,300 Libyans, who had resisted Italian colonial rule, were confined to Tremiti. After a year, around one-third of them had died, mainly from typhus.
The economy of the Tremiti Islands is mainly based on fishing, agriculture and tourism. The islands are now an important tourist attraction because of the clear waters surrounding them. Up to 100,000 visitors come to the islands in the summer season, as such, there is an increasing demand for hotels, apartments, resorts and campgrounds. Ferry services from the mainland operate from Termoli, Foggia, Vieste, Rodi Garganico and Capoiale.
Original Recipes From The Region.
Friselle with Tomatoes
The Friselle are typical of the region. They consist of bagel type bread made with durum wheat flour. That are cut in half horizontally (when half-cooked) and baked again until crispy.
- 4 friselle
- Half pound of cherry tomatoes
- Few leaves of basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lettuce, optional
Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and place them in a serving bowl.
Add chopped garlic, chopped basil, a bit of oregano and olive oil.
Wet the friselle with a small amount of water and place them on a large plate
Cover the friselle with the tomato mixture. Serve with lettuce, if desired.
The region has a long coastline and a very active fish business with various types of seafood that can be found easily in local fish markets.
- 12 oz spaghetti
- 1 ¼ lbs mixed seafood (mussels, clams, etc.)
- 5-6 oz prawns (or large shrimp)
- 1/4 lb of eels
- 4 sea dates (unique to the region but similar to mussels)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 cup tomato pulp
Scrub the shellfish. Heat them in a frying pan over medium heat until they open.
Get rid of those that do not open.
Shell the prawns; debone and cut the eel into pieces.
Scrub the sea dates.
Cook one clove of garlic with some oil, add the clams, shrimp, dates and the pieces of eel and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chopped tomatoes and chopped parsley. Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens.
Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and pour the spaghetti into the pan with the sauce. Sautè for a couple of minutes and serve hot.
Broccoli with Black Olives
Broccoli is an essential part of the region’s cuisine.
- 1 ½ lbs broccoli
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 oz pitted black olives, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/3 grated pecorino cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
Cut the broccoli into small pieces.
Steam them for 4 minutes and put them into a saucepan.
Add the olive oil, olives, wine and chilli. Add salt to taste and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Add the grated pecorino cheese and stir for another two minutes. Serve.
- 2 lbs boneless pork or veal loin
- 4 oz Mortadella, sliced thin
- 1 lb spinach
- 2 eggs
- 3 oz butter
- 2 tablespoons grated Grana Padano cheese
- A little dry white wine
- A little broth
Cook the spinach, squeeze dry and saute in a pan with 2 oz of butter and a little salt.
Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper, add the cheese, then add the spinach.
Pour the mixture into a greased skillet and make an omelet.
Pound the meat between pieces of plastic wrap. Place the slices of mortadella on the meat and then the omelet, cut to fit.
Roll the meat up jelly roll style and tie closed with kitchen twine.
Heat the remaining butter and a little oil in an ovenproof pan, brown the meat roll, sprinkle with wine and let it evaporate. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Pour a little broth every now and then over the meat to keep the bottom of the pan moist.
Serve sliced after removing the twine.
Puglia is a flat, fertile, sun soaked region in southern Italy which, together with its iron rich soil makes it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. It is famous for its olive oil and produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tons each year. Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.
Durum wheat grows in abundance and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘oricchiette’ (meaning little ears) which is still made daily by the elder women in most of the small villages.
The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in traditional wood burning bread ovens and some of the villages still have a communal bread oven where the locals go to bake their bread every day.
Vegetables obviously grow well in the warm climate and are used in abundance, always fresh and always seasonal. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and aubergines, peppers and courgettes are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.
The interior of Puglia is rocky and many sheep and goats are bred there for their meat as well as their milk which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.
Puglia has many delicious local cheeses, perhaps the most famous being Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream. Others include Cacioricotta – a seasonal Ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk, Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, Fallone di Gravina and Caciofiore.
Fish plays a large part in the cuisine of Puglia and the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.
In spite of this excess of food, the daily cuisine in Puglia, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and wholesome with most locals growing, rearing and making enough for their individual needs.
Dinner Party Menu For Six
Pepperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers)
- 6 sweet bell peppers (green and red)
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
- 10 tablespoons bread crumbs
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Place the peppers in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about half an hour or under the broiler until the skins start to blacken. Take them out of the oven, cool and then peel off the skins.
Cut the peppers into strips, about 2 inches wide.
Grease the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil and place a layer of peppers. Sprinkle a few capers, a few slices of garlic, some of the chopped anchovy fillets, a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little salt and pepper on the peppers. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used.
When the top layer is finished, drizzle with olive oil. Then place the pan in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are brown.
Taralli Scaldati (Dry Bread)
- 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 14 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 tablespoons fennel seed
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Warm water
Combine the all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until thoroughly combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes. Soften the dough by adding a little warm water, if it seems too dry.
Turn the dough out onto a bread board and roll pieces of the dough into long thin stripes about 4-5 inches long. Loop the ends around to form circles or pretzel shapes and space them out on wax paper to rest for to rise for 15 minutes covered with a clean kitchen cloth.
Heat the oven to 400° F.
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and drop a few of the taralli in the boiling water for a minute, turn with and cook another minute. Remove the boiled taralli with a slotted spoon to a wire rack to dry for a minute or two.
Place them on an oiled baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until brown and crispy. Cool completely.
Tubettini con le Cozze
(Small Pasta Tubes with Mussels)
- 2 lbs mussels
- 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- A handful of chopped parsley
- 1 lb tubettini pasta (little tubes)
Wash the mussels well under running water and pull out the beards (the stringy bits hanging out of the shell) and place them in a bowl of cold water.
Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and when it comes to the boil add salt and the pasta tubes.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a cover and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a minute and add the cherry tomatoes. Once they soften, add the white wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol evaporates. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper and add the mussels. Cover with the lid and cook until all the mussels open.
Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the mussels in the skillet, along with the chopped parsley and reserves pasta cooking liquid. Mix well on a low heat for a minute and serve.
Roasted Striped Bass
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large fresh fennel bulbs with fronds attached, trimmed; bulbs quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced; fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
- 1 large red onion, halved lengthwise through root end, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- 3 – 1 1/2-pounds whole striped bass or fish that is available in your area, cleaned, gutted, scaled
- 1/4 cup (about) all-purpose flour
- 6 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, divided
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted, halved
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
Boil wine in a medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.
Generously brush an 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange fennel slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Top with onion slices in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the vegetables.
Rinse fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly dust outside of fish with flour. Pour enough olive oil into extra-large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan; heat over medium-high heat until pan is very hot.
Working with one fish at a time, add fish to the skillet and cook until a golden crust forms on the skin, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining fish. Add more oil, only if necessary.Carefully place fish on top of the vegetables on the baking sheet. Gently stuff the cavity of each fish with 2 crushed garlic cloves and then 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour reserved wine over vegetables on the baking sheet.
Roast fish uncovered until vegetables begin to soften, 35 to 40 minutes. Scatter tomato halves and olives around the fish; bake until fish is just cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer fish to large platter; cover with foil to keep warm.
Increase oven temperature to 475°F. Continue to bake vegetables uncovered until tender and tomatoes are very soft and beginning to color in spots, about 15 minutes more.
Arrange vegetable mixture around the fish on a serving platter. Sprinkle chopped fennel fronds and serve.
Ingredients for the pastry dough
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- A pinch of salt
- 2 cups of water
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 large eggs
Ingredients for the custard filling
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 cups milk
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- Confectioner’s sugar
To make the pastry:
In a heavy saucepan, heat the water. Add the butter and the salt and remove from the stove once the butter has melted. Add the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium heat and beat the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating the dough with a wooden spoon or hand mixer.
Note – make sure to blend in each egg well before proceeding to add in the next one.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Drop 1 1/4-inch portions of dough about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the puffs about 15 minutes at 400 degrees F and then for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Transfer the pastries to cooling racks.
To make the custard:
In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar for the filing. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it’s almost boiling. Add the 6 eggs to the sugar and the cornstarch and gradually add a couple of large spoonfuls of the warm milk. When it’s well-blended, pour it into the pot with the rest of the milk and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.
Use a small knife to cut each zeppole in half. Fill each zeppole with some custard, replace the top half and put the zeppole on a serving dish. Add a teaspoon of jam to each zeppole and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.
- Delicious Everyday Puglian Wines (selectitaly.com)
- Calzone di cipolla alla pugliese (Puglian Onion Pie) (memoriediangelina.com)