The tarallo, one of the symbols of Apulian gastronomy, is a simple string of flour, water, oil, white wine, salt and fennel seeds. Let’s find out more.
The taralli from the Greek daratos meaning a kind of bread, were born in 1400 during a great famine which raged in Puglia. Legend has it that a mother to feed her children kneaded water, flour, oil and white wine, inevitable ingredients in the Apulian pantries of all times, obtaining a dough from which she got the well-known irregular ring-shaped snacks. After a while, he put them in the oven to cook what was to become one of the quintessential symbols of Puglia tradition.
Another evolution of the recipe occurs when the housewives realize that to give more crunch to the tarallo, they should have boiled it before baking it in the ovens of the city. Along with this new passage in boiling water, spices such as fennel seeds were added which enriched the original recipe. Felice Giovine, historian of Puglia and founder of the Centro Studi Baresi as well as the Academy of the Bari language, says that “each region has its typical taralli, even if it is made with the same ingredients. They can be circular or have a figure of eight” and that taralli are homemade preparations that only became baked goods in the 1950s.
Literature also celebrates this delicious bakery product, attributing it to the food of the poor and pilgrims. Thus Matilde Serao in “Il Ventre di Napoli” writes that the tarallo was born as a poor food for the people of the “fondaci” who, in total poverty, found a way to survive in the waste of baked bread. It was between the 19th and 20th centuries that this product was re-evaluated and the recipe was jealously guarded. “In the land of Bari, those of Palo del Colle were very famous – confirms Felice Giovine – the taralli were used by the aunts (pilgrims) as subsistence food during the long journey that took them from Campania, Basilicata and Abruzzo to Bari. They reached Puglia in May to honor San Nicola”.
The history of the tarallo is also intimately linked to the religious and folkloric dimension starting from the Good Friday procession where formerly the so-called spassattìimbe, that is to say the sellers of lupins, dried fruits, seeds of pumpkin, were located following the sequence of statues and processions. With them there were also those who sold the Scelèppe, that is to say the large taralli covered with glaze, a variant of the product created to feed the less fortunate. These street vendors were often contacted for information on the route of the procession and their response was “tarall’e zzucchère”, a way of requesting the purchase of taralli in exchange for the information offered. “Since then – confirms Giovine – if someone asks a real Bari for information, he will answer ‘tarall’e zzucchere’”.
It is from this singular story that one of the simplest and at the same time most appreciated products in Italy and in the world was born, a perfect gift to take home after a holiday in Puglia to never forget the flavor and scent of the Apulian sun.
Today tarallo is everywhere: supermarkets, bakeries, bars, delicatessens, restaurants. That of Puglia was also counted among the traditional Italian food products (PAI). Fiore di Puglia, a company of excellence in the food sector in Corato (Ba), is always looking for ideas to innovate this cornerstone of regional gastronomy. From those for pizza to those with olives, passing through classic and artisan lines and above all with sustainable packaging, the tarallo still shows today the great secret of its success: its undeniable versatility.