Italy is a playground for foodies and chefs alike. Replete with varied kinds of pastas, innumerable numbers of sauces, and a diverse array of cheeses and meats. It’s a refuge for rustic dishes passed down through generations and elevated cuisine alike. This is, of course, often-repeated information.
What may not have been brought to public attention abroad is one of the country’s more humble snack foods: tarallini, sometimes called tarallucci. These tiny, baked doughnuts of dough, slightly larger than a quarter, are smaller versions of the taralli consumed throughout the south of Italy. They’re most often savory, but occasionally are made in sweetened forms. A number of toppings found in the areas they’re made in, like olive oil and pepper, are sometimes added as well. They have a light, golden-brown sheen, and more than a plain biscuit-like flavor- instead, any quality tarallini have a rich, like bread fresh out of the oven, but more intense. They are often found packaged in small quantities for portioned snacking, but can also be bought in larger quantities.
Puglia, or Apulia, the heel of the country’s proverbial boot, is especially known for them. It’s an area that is heavy in agriculture, producing the wheat and olive oil necessary to make tarallini in great quantities, among other crops. Some form of wheat-based snack was inevitable. I remember bringing them back in suitcases after long trips to visit family in Puglia as a child. We rationed them out as we only made the long-haul flight across the Atlantic once every two years. Of course, the local Italian or international food store likely stocked them too.
So on your next trip to Whole Foods or, well, Amazon.com, I encourage you to try them. They might surprise you, and you may just find a new addition to your pantry. A warning- stopping with just one handful is nearly impossible.