Browsing by Category: Basilicata


Yesterday I took the bus from Rome to Matera. Well, two buses, actually. Somewhere on the Campania-Puglia border, the first bus stopped at a gas station and passengers headed to Cerignola, Altamura and Matera were told to get out, collect our (more…)

Today, the premier issue of Southern Flourish Magazine, a digital publication all about life and culture in the American South, went live. When the editor asked me to contribute a piece about the Italian south, I naturally wrote about eating (more…)

The province of Matera, and Basilicata in general, is a major producer or durum wheat, used to make bread with a hard crusty exterior and soft, spongy interior. It is almost identical to pane di Altamura, bread produced just across the border in Puglia, which holds the prestegious DOP seal of quality and tradition.  (more…)

Most people visit Matera for the Sassi, cave dwellings inhabited since neolithic times, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. That is certainly why we visited. But we extended our trip for an extra 3 days for the cheese! While most tourists were busying themselves in Matera’s medieval rock-hewn churches, my dad and I were interviewing the local cheese makers who work from 6am-noon making cheese for the city and neighboring towns. For six magical hours a day, cow and buffalo milk is pressed and pulled into primo fiore (fresh and creamy), ricotta (fresh and spreadable or dried and slightly hard), mozzarella, caciocavallo, and provola. The process is labor intensive, the mozzarella and caciocavallo, in particular which are masterfully stretched and formed by experts whose craft should be considered an art.

Thanks to a genius marketing campaign, Barilla has tricked us into thinking that Barilla is “Italian for pasta”. Actually, it is Italian for crap. REAL pasta is handmade from quality durum wheat mixed with water.

Matera is surrounded by plains that have been Italy’s breadbasket for 2000 years, once supplying the Roman Empire with large quantities of grain to feed its people and fuel its expansion. Still today, much of the wheat sold in Italy is harvested near Matera. Consequently, durum wheat pasta is ubiquitous and it is shaped into literally hundreds of forms. Perhaps the most famous are orecchiette (little ear-shaped pasta). (more…)