To most chefs “pasta nero” means pasta died black with cuttlefish or squid ink. In parts of Southern Italy, pasta nero gets it’s name from being made with “farina arso” or literally, “scorched wheat.” Puglia (Apulia) has historically been one of the poorest regions of Italy. According to the local legends, after the peasants had spent the fall harvesting durum semolina wheat, the fields would be burnt to prepare for the next year’s harvests. The wealthy landowners would allow the peasants back on to the field to collect whatever burnt husks of wheat remained, which they would use to prepare this peculiar pasta.
Pasta Nero made from scorched wheat has had somewhat of a comeuppance in the last few years, especially as chefs rediscover traditional regional foods, and elevate “la cucina povera.” We carry this Taglietelle from Gina e Sofia, a small producer in the southernmost Salento region of Puglia, their version is malty and toasty with a slightly cinnamon finish. Its hard to go wrong with the burnt pasta and a bit of grassy Sicilian olive oil, Calabrian peppers, and Pecorino Romano, but Great Ciao Jessica also highly recommends simply tossing it in our ridiculously awesome French cultured butter from Rodolphe le Meunier to bring out all of the pasta’s subtle nuances. We can’t argue with that.