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dishes cooked in a terracotta pot

The pignata (sometimes pigna or pignatiello) is a large terracotta pot. Originally they took the form of a tall urn with handles, though nowadays they come in more conventional shapes.

Pignate are especially favoured for slow cooking bean and chick pea dishes al camino or by an open fire, similar to the Tuscan fagioli al fiasco. In the Basilicata, they used it to make pignata alla pecora, a mutton and pork stew with tomatoes, onions and pecorino cheese. In the Salentine peninsula they make white bean pignata te pasuli.

Pignatiello is a smaller version, more like a ramekin. Here too, the name is also applied to dishes made in one. Most of these involve shellfish, like pignatiello all'amalfitana, which squeezes in six different kinds. They're also commonly used for making gooey gnocchi with lots of cheese and tomatoes in the oven.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Pignata Te Pasuli