An Army of Orecchiette on a Sunny Day in Puglia

Way back in December, while driving around Gargano, Puglia, and after we made a stop in Ischitella to pick up those delicious Marzipan fruit, we stopped in on some of S’ relatives, naturally unannounced.

And what a sight I beheld!

His cousin was busy at work, making an army of orecchiette all by herself. Orecchiette, or “little ears” pasta are traditionally found and made in Puglia. They are most commonly served with a “cime di rapa” turnip greens sauce. It’s very time consuming to make each little ear as they are rolled, cut and shaped by hand. I have making orecchiette on my “I Dare” culinary challenges this year, so I’ll be showing you some step-by-step instructions later.

Making Orecchiette

I got fascinated by her hands. She was so fast at it I had to ask her several times to slow down so I could get them frozen in the frame. It’s hard to interrupt someone hard at work.

Making Orecchiette - Little Ears pasta - those hands

Usually when you sit down to make them, it’s best to make as many as you can and keep what you don’t use, since once you get into a rhythm of making them, it’s hard to stop! S’ family usually makes several kilos at the same time.

Here’s the army of Orecchiette, waiting for battle.

The army of Orecchiette - Little Ears pasta

That rough texture is the sign of homemade pasta. Too uniform? Not by hand.

Close-up of Orecchiette - the Little Ears Pasta

Where S’ relatives live is a very interesting stretch of land. On one side, they have a large lake. Houses rest on a stretch of land a few kilometers wide, and then the ocean is immediately on the other side.

They spend a lot of time fishing in the salty channels that flow in and out from the sea. Each family has one or more of these fishing nets out in front of their house.

A sunny day in the middle of December, Puglia

I couldn’t resist this little black cat – I wasn’t sure what was the most dangerous part about it – being black, or its insatiable curiosity? It followed me around as I took pictures of its home.

A black, curious cat. Doomed!

Do you like orecchiette? What kind of sauce do you pair with yours?

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  1. says

    wow, that is a lot of those things :) How fun to watch someone make it though.

    I love the little black cat – he reminds me of our cat in FL

  2. says

    I am in love with this post. My family comes from Pulia and this dish is so popular. The women who make the orecchiette are so talented and fast, like you say. Can’t wait to read more about this.
    And yes, turnip greens, or broccoli rabe, or any bitter greens are so nice with them :)

  3. says

    Hi Sara – Orecchiette are the best! We were in Rome in 2003 and somehow missed “orecchiette thursday” – when I put it all together I was so sad about it that we actually made a point of going to Rome in 2006 (we had a choice of flying into Milano or Rome) and having orecchiette with broccoli at Mamma Angela, a little restuarant near the main stazione.
    It was so good! Perfectly chewy/tender texture and they hold the sauce so well!
    Reading your posts all the time and enjoying them very much. Lisa

  4. says

    Orecchiette is my all-time, #1, most favorite pasta (with stewed greens and garlic and olive oil…and chile flakes). I stock up when in Italy.

    Loved the pix.

  5. says

    I’ve never had it, but I love it already. They look so cute! I know, probably not something that should describe them. But honestly, I haven’t seen them before.

  6. says

    What an amazing talent…I have never tried Orecchiette, we do eat lots and lots of pasta though. Do you have a favourite recipe for this pasta on your blog? Just looked at the picture again, How many people were they feeding!! :-)

  7. says

    I love orecchiette! I make them with olive oil, bread crumbs, parsely, and prosciutto sprinkled with parmesano reggiano….yum! Orecchiette is expensive here in PDX. I stock up when in Italy or I have my boyfriend bring me some when he comes to visit.

  8. says

    Very impressive at how deep the bowl is, the better to capture the sauce with and so uniform. I see I have a long ways to go to make oricchette like those. Pratice pratice…

  9. carrieitly says

    I second David! I adore orecchiette with greens and spiced with chili! It’s the most simple thing to do in the world- chop your greens very fine (I love broccoli or broccoli rabe). Saute some olive oil w/ a crushed garlic clove & a split chili pepper (& some extra chili flakes if you like it nice ‘n’ picante). Remove the garlic clove as soon as the oil become aromatic. Saute the greens until super tender. Remove chili & toss with al dente orecchiette! This is fantastic cold as well!

  10. says

    what a great post! I was lucky enough to be funded to do food research in Italy this past winter and I fell in love with what I saw. My favorite pasta would have to be Pici, which is a semi-thick handmade pasta native to Siena. But I also love tagliatelle con ragu di cinghiale (the ragu is a speciality from Firenze)! This post made me so hungry : ( and I ran out of all the yummy stuff I brought with me from Italy, haha. Definitely time to plan another trip : )

  11. Susanna Wilkinson says

    I just happened upon your blog while web surfing. My maternal side is from Puglia, Bisceglie, to be specific. I have many 2nd and 3rd cugini still in the Bari area. My grandmother used to make these orecchiette. We called them Stracinate. PS: I am 55 years old. My mom is still living, a healthy 88 years old!!

  12. says

    Hmmm…wish I could remember how I ended up here, but I’m glad I did! We’re going to Italy this summer for two weeks, so I’ve been looking for interesting places to get information that isn’t in travel books.

    I love orecchiette with lots of chopped fresh tomatoes, green onions, garlic, lemon juice, chopped basil, parmesan & basil oil. They’re perfect for this because the little cups hold the lovely juices that accumulate as the “sauce” sits a bit after salting.

    And the black kitty is precious. I just lost mine to illness after 11 years…

  13. Joe says

    My grandmother made orechetti all my life but we called them riccidelli. I love them and still make them today, however havnt in years as you can buy them now.

  14. Sharon Lerch says

    Hi all,
    I was searching for recipes from Bisceglie, Italy in the Puglia region as that is where my maternal grandparents were from, and I came upon this site. I’m interested in getting in touch with Susanna Wilkinson who posted that her maternal side originated from that town also. I’ve been trying to find a few recipes that my mom and aunt (almost 80 and 84 and both going strong!) can’t remember how to make. I also found it interesting that only people from this specific town call orecchiette pasta stracinate. I’m wondering how many recipes we have in common. Susanna, if you see this post, please contact me at I’d love to hear from you!

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