If you say orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta pieces) you say Puglia, yet there are a few doubts about their origin and their history is not at all clear.
Are they French? Or Hebraic? Or from Puglia, as always guessed? Which is the true origin of this dish?
Angevin legacy/Provençal ear shaped pasta pieces
The ones with turnip tops are certainly the most famous, but they are exquisite with a tomato sauce as well, or with stew or ricotta cheese, The sauce changes according to the zone where they are being served.
As in France, in particular in Provence, where, according to some historians, the orecchiette come from. During the Middle Age a sort of pasta disc, thick and hollow, exactly like our orecchiette are, was produced.
The round shape was the best for drying, so pasta could be preserved for a longtime. This feature could also allow the trade and the exportation of the ear shaped pasta pieces, which was distributed in all the Mediterranean area.
It is thought that this pasta shape reached Puglia and Basilicata through the Angevins, a dynasty which dominated both regions in the thirteenth century.
The Hebraic thesis / Haman ears
Another theory states that the orecchiette were born in the are of Sannicandro of Bari, during the Norman-Swabian domination, between the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries.
Some historians connect this kind of pasta to the Hebraic community present in Puglia during that period.
Actually there is a food speciality in the Hebraic tradition which is very similar to orecchiette, I.e. a flat disc of pasta called “Haman orecchiette” a sweet dough kneaded until hollow.
A simple dish from the tradition of Puglia region
Flour, water and salt. Nothing else. These are the ingredients needed to prepare the “strasc’nat”, literally “dragged pasta pieces”, because to give shape to the orecchiette one should drag pasta with a finger or a rounded-tip knife onto a table.
They are served with turnip tops in Bari, with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese in Salento and with meat sauce at Cisternino.
By the way, whatever their origin is, the orecchiette are a symbol of Puglia region and Italy too in the world.