Orecchiette di grano arso with pumpkin

Orecchiette with pumpkin, pink onion & rosemary

toasted wheat orecchiette

From January 7 to 9 I’ve been once again acting as Resident Chef at Bellavita Amsterdam, the expo where you can find the best Italian food & wine products every year (here some of the photos made by the amazing Bellavita photographers).

Nicoletta Tavella Bellavita 2019

Cooking on the Bellavita stage


One of the great chefs that I had the pleasure of working with is Peppe Zullo, a lively and passionate cook from Puglia, the region where I spent most of my “Italian life” before moving to The Netherlands. Peppe’s nickname is il cuoco contadino, the farmer cook, because he owns a beautiful farm and produces all sorts of fruit, vegetables and even his own wine (check out his site to see all the amazing things he does!).


Peppe Zullo

Peppe Zullo


He cooked a beautiful pasta dish with simple ingredientes he brougth from home, among which a lovely squash and some wild herbs, and he inspired me to write this recipe with some of the quality products I found at Bellavita, for example the wonderful black orecchiette made with toasted wheat by Pastificio Ligorio in Puglia, the amazing pink onions from Appetito Novitalia in Amsterdam and the award winning pecorino by cheese manufacturer Rocca Toscana.

These black orecchiette are made with toasted wheat (grano arso) and represent an ancient Apulian tradition derived from the extreme poverty of this region in the past: poor people used to collect the burnt grains of wheat that remained on the fields after they had been set on fire after harvesting to make space for new crops. They used to make flour with this black wheat and to prepare pasta with it.
Nowadays grano arso is simply toasted wheat which gives its distinctive colour and aroma to some great Apulian pastas, especially orecchiette.

If you want to make this dish and can’t find the black orecchiette you can of course use plain ones or another type of pasta.
On my Instagram profile you can also find the video of this recipe (in my Saved stories).

Orecchiette di grano arso con zucca, cipolla rossa e rosmarino

Serves 2:

200 gr. squash, diced
ev olive oil
1 sprig of rosemary
1 pink or red onion
1 clove of garlic
200 gr. toasted wheat orecchiette
chilli oil
fresh parsley, chopped
Tuscan pecorino

Cook the diced squash in salted water until tender.

In the meantime, gently fry the finely chopped onion and rosemary leaves (discard the woody stalk) with the whole peeled garlic clove in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Once the squash is tender, transfer to the pan with the onion and smash it with a fork to obtain a creamy sauce (add
a bit of the cooking water too for extra moisture).

Cook the orecchiette in the water you used for the pumpkin (this will give the pasta more flavour), drain and add to the sauce together with some cooking water for the extra starches which will add more creaminess to the dish.

Finish off with some chilli oil, chopped parsley and abundant grated Tuscan pecorino.


Orecchiette di grano arso with pumpkin