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The Awaiting Table / Cucina Pugliese  / lu ranu stumpatu al vincotto (wheat berries with reduced grape must)

lu ranu stumpatu al vincotto (wheat berries with reduced grape must)

Hemingway is often credited with the phrase, Dessert is for those that don’t drink enough.

Whether he said it or not, it’s something that often saunters through my head when my eyes pass over the ‘dolci’ section of a dinner menù, the same way they do when I pass a women’s shoe store or a barber shop: I notice stuff, but just.

It’s my least favourite part of the meal, mostly because puddings, desserts, dolci or whatever you like to call them, are all about richness, piling on, long after I have the tendency to be already full. The dessert, well, it’s just for those that didn’t already get their sugar in their red wine.  (Here in Italy, limoncello is the classic way to end a fish-based meal out, perhaps because white wine tends to have a lot less residual sugar than red).

On the odd evenings when I do crave something a little sweet, it’s only marginally so, like this pounded grain-based sweet, doused with vincotto and lightly-sweetened ricotta. It’s very traditional here in Puglia, where the region still functions as the rest of Italy’s bread basket. And where you have bread, you have wheat berries.

You boil the wheat berries with a little sugar or honey until soft, which is usually around an hour or so. In the past, these cooking times were much, much longer. As was an overnight soak, two steps dramatically truncated by the invention of cryovac bags (or vacuum-packing), an invention as important as the pressure cooker, regarding the modern consumption of grains and legumes.

Drain them and when they are still slightly warm and still a bit absorbent, you add some vincotto, homemade always best. Chill.


Spoon into a glass or onto a plate and sweeten some ricotta and today I used the school’s vanilla sugar (whole pods collided with caster sugar in a food processor).

Alternate layers, douse with more vincotto (and some add mint and/or home-made candied fruit).

In the mouth, the little kernels give in gently to the tooth, supple yet textured and completely satisfying. The vincotto delivers a rich, fruity complexity- an intense red wine, just without the alcohol- the ricotta, a light and ethereal airiness, a billowing cloud over the heady, late summer grape vines.

Here in the school’s kitchen, as my old dented spoon slips in increasing deeper dips towards the bottle of the glass, I nibble and consider Hemingway again and his profound contributions to humanity.

It’s my understanding that he wrote books too.



Silvestro Silvestori
Sommelier / Owner / Director of The Awaiting Table Cookery School, Lecce, Italy

Silvestro Silvestori, the owner, founder and director of The Awaiting Table Cookery School, Lecce, Italy has been teaching the food and wine of Puglia and particular- Italy’s Salentine peninsula since 2003. In addition to his knowledge of Pugliese food and culture, Silvestro is a nationally-certified sommelier in Italy, and a staff writer for Wine & Spirits magazine, covering all their Southern Italian food and wine content. He has also appeared on American, Australian, Belgian, British, Chinese, Dutch and Italian television, and Italy’s most respected newspaper called him, ‘A national treasure’, and ‘THE anthropologist of the traditional cuisine of the Salento’ for his work in preservation and promotion of Salentine’s food and wine.


  • Mimi_Deb
    January 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Ciao Silvestro,

    Love your writing and recipes!!! Grazie!

    deb 🙂

  • Noelle
    March 9, 2013 at 6:33 am

    OMG Sounds divine! My mouth is watering.

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