The Culinary Charm of Le Marche

 

written by Amanda Fulginiti

The cuisine of Le Marche is a humble one, born from a peasant tradition so waste is frowned upon. Marchigiani are said to eat more meat than any other Italians and enormous platters of meats (grigliata mista di carne) are common menu items when frequenting any one of their ristoranti. From spring to Christmas, Le Marche hosts a variety of feste or outdoor celebrations where the common theme is local produce, food and wine that visitors can sample. Here is a list of edible favourites not to be missed while traversing this region.

Lonza

Salt-cured fillet of pork reigns supreme in terms of antipasti. Another typical one to try is ciauscolo, a soft, spreadable pork salame flavoured with fennel, garlic and vino cotto, a local nonalcoholic “cooked wine” made from grape must with a unique sweet-and-sour flavour.

Olive all’ascolana

Soft DOP green olives of Ascoli Piceno are pitted and stuffed with a filling of meat and cheese, dipped in beaten egg and breadcrumbs, and deep-fried to a golden brown in sunflower oil. This is a typical antipasto or snack. Many buy in cartoccio so they can be eaten on the go.

Truffles

Pesaro is the biggest truffle producer in Italy, particularly of the prized white truffle in direct competition with Alba. The capital in the Marches for truffles is Acqualagna, between Pesaro and Urbino, where the famous market is held.

Brodetto all’anconetana

This is the region’s most famous fish stew, which typically includes red and gray mullet, cuttlefish or squid (or both), oil, garlic and saffron served on either fried or toasted bread. This is a typical menu item in Ancona where the stew is made with 13 varieties of fish (one for each person at the Last Supper) – no more, no less. This is a specialty of the restaurant Uliassi in Senigallia that has two Michelin stars. In August, many head to Pesaro for the annual Brodetto and Fish Soup Festival.

Vincisgrassi

A rich baked lasagna that consists of 12 layers of pasta sheets that are interspersed with veal ragù, chicken liver or lamb sweetbreads, and truffles or wild mushrooms.

Passatelli

A pasta famous in Urbino. It is strands of pasta made from breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and egg cooked in broth.

Piccione ripieno

Pigeon typically stuffed with thyme and sage and wood-roasted in Cortegiara Amorone.

Coniglio in porchetta

A very typical secondo piatto of the region. There are many different versions, but all are very flavourful because they are prepared with wild fennel.

Casciotta d’Urbino

A type of Caciotta cheese, produced in the Province of Pesaro and Urbino. This semi-soft cheese is made from 70% sheep’s milk and 30% whole cow’s milk. ‘Cascio’, which means cheese from an ancient past, has been produced since the times of the Dukes of Montefeltro. It’s a sweet cheese with flavours of fresh green grass, nuts and wild flowers.

Formaggio di fossa

A strong-flavoured cheese aged by being walled up in limestone holes in the ground.

Crema fritta

Literally translated as “fried cream,” this is a Marchigiana delicacy that is typically paired with the local fritto misto, a mixed fried platter of zucchini, onions, olive all’ascolane and veal or lamb kebabs. The cream is cooked and left to sit in the fridge overnight, then gently coated in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried on skewers.

Calcioni and piconi

Desserts that are not overwhelmingly sweet and often use sweetened cheeses like pecorino or ricotta as ingredients.

Frustenga

A cake, typically served during Christmas time, made with raisins, figs and walnuts. It can be served hot or cold.

Wines

The region is known for its full-bodied reds like Ancona’s Rosso Conero, the popular Rosso Piceno, and the sparkling Vernaccia di Serrapetrona. However, the real stars are its white wines, especially Verdicchio (dei Castelli di Iesi or di Matelica), considered by many to be the best wine to be paired with seafood. Bianchello del Metauro is a traditional straw-coloured white that is excellent with shellfish. Spirits of Le Marche include homemade Grappa, but the most popular is Mistra, an anise liqueur used as a digestive.