This is an excerpt from the book “Central Italy Marche and Abruzzo“
The local cuisine of the Marches region reserves a place of honor for the Casciotta d’Urbino, a cheese that is eaten throughout the day. Made according to a tradition that can be traced back to as early as the 16th century in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, Casciotta di Urbino has a pale yellow paste that is lightly perforated by characteristic little holes. Made primarily from ewe’s and cow’s milk, Casciotta should be eaten after a maturation process that lasts from 20 to 30 days. Mild and only slightly acidic, it is enjoyed simply with a slice of ciauscolo, grilled polenta, or with sweet accompaniments such as jams and pears.
The Marchigiani cherish every inch of the pig. Ciauscolo, a type of spreadable pork, is traditional in this part of Italy. This specialty is made form the belly and shoulder of the pig and flavored with salt, pepper, fennel, garlic, and orange rind. Other pork specialties include Carpegna Prosciutto, Soppressata da Fabriano, and Fegatino, a liver sausage.
One of the region’s signature dishes, Vincisgrassi is a special recipe that reflects the Marchigiani attitude to life. Handmade with care, this festive dish is a type of lasagne layered with a sauce of chicken giblets, mushrooms, veal brains and sweetbreads, ham, bechamel, Parmigiano Reggiano and, in season, truffles, preferably white. Legend has it that a chef made the dish centuries ago for an Austrian prince who fought in the war against Napoleon in 1799.
How should a self-respecting Ascolan lunch start? Tradition and rural memory suggest without a doubt lamb giblets, served with eggs or with tomato and hot pepper, chicken livers, but also cheese-flavored bread accompanied by the seasonal salamis and cold cuts (de rigueur at Easter) and a plate of tender stuffed and fried olives.
Egg noodles have an important presence among the first courses, whether they are tagliatelle, fine cut spaghetti, maccheroncini di Campofilone, or chitarrine from Abruzzo: but there’s no discussion over the sauce: it must be of chicken giblets. For the menu of Friday or di vigilia, spaghetti with tuna, green olives and tomato sauce. As an alternative, the soups linked to the mountain economies, with a cereal or legume base: spelt soup, or that of lentils, or beans or egg noodles with chickpeas.
The second course, which is also the “symbol”, is the fritto misto all’ascolana: stuffed olives, naturally, then fried custard, zucchini, artichokes and lamb ribs. Much appreciated is also grilled lamb, rabbit or chicken and, for Good Friday’s menu, stoccafisso or baccala’ with herbs and spices. To conclude the meal, the sober coke or ciambellotto is a popular choice, with anisette flavored pastries, the cicerchiata, the rich and caloric frustingo and fried sweet ravioli, filled with chestnuts or cream or even ricotta. Piceno’s wines from the beginning to the end: white Falerio of the Colli Ascolani, but also the autochthonous vines Pecorino and Passerina, then red Rosso Piceno and Rosso Piceno Superiore, and to conclude with a trip into archaic memory, the vino cotto, conserved in barrels, and the completely Mediterranean fascination of Anisetta and mistro’.
Marche food: Entrees
A long time ago, in the Marches the entries were not so frequent as today, even if their actual components were eaten – tout court – as main course, or for breakfast or for the afternoon snack.
The years passed, and although the Marches’ people were used to frugal meals, on particular occasions, they indulge in eating more than one food and the entries were useful to whet the appetite.
The Marches’s entry then identified with the classical Italian one: a dish of “fettato”, that is slices of different charcuterie (ham, lonza -a kind of pork sausage-, salami – Ciavuscolo – coppa), pickles, green or black olives, anchovies and butter, and sometimes salad and parsley as well.
During these last year, especially along the coasts, rich entries of fish have been very frequent, both cold and hot, served in this order.
The Italian entry is served with slightly spiced verdicchio, also harmonic, savory, with the right alcoholic content, full-bodied, with a strong and persistent taste, slightly bitterish.
Fish specialties , such as “Granevole al limone”, “Gargoli in Porchetta”, “Nocchie in Bianco”, “Filetti di Acciughe” (Slices of anchovies)*, “Seppia in insalata (Cuttlefish in salad)*, etc…go well together with a delicate Verdicchio wine, slightly spicy, harmonic, savory , full-bodied, with a strong and persistent taste and the typical slightly bitterish aftertaste.
Other entries such as “Crostini con fegatini di pollo”, “Crostini all’aglio”(a slice of roosted garlic bread)*, “Sedano in Pinzimonio” (celery with olive oil, pepper and salt)* need a good-structured Verdicchio, harmonic, savory, full-bodied, with a strong and persistent taste and the bitterish aftertaste.
Marche food: First courses
For a long time, the Marche’s gastronomic symbol has been the polenta, single and energetic food, which replaced bread. It was eaten daily, only changing the sauce just to have the impression of eating something different.
During the years, the Marches’ gastronomy has become richer and richer and more varied, changing from an area to another. Each kind of food is always the result of the tradition of a particular place or the folklore. Anyway, the ancient receipts belong to a region of farmers, shepherds and sailors.
The traditional gastronomy is made up of the “home-made pasta”(Tagliatelle), “cappelletti in brodo”, “lasagne con ricotta e spinaci”, “pappardelle alla boscaiola”, “ravioli”, “gnocchi” etc…
The Verdicchio wine is perfect for all these food specialties, provided that it changes the alcoholic content from time to time and that is always mellow, savory and slightly bitterish.
Marche food: Main courses
The Marches’ gastronomy is very rich in Main courses and offers a wide range of possibilities. The strong and vigorous nature of the Marches is perfectly represented in their Main courses, which are always simple and sometimes heavy, as well.
Along the coasts fish specialties dominate: soups, grilled and fried fish. The excellent production of tender and savory meat (beef, lamb, pork) employs original and, sometimes primeval techniques which enable the good cooking of rural traditional dishes.
The richness and the variety of second dishes need a good-mellow Verdicchio (from 8 to 16 months), harmonic, with a good alcoholic content (12/13°), with an intense and persistent taste and well-accentuated traits.
Marche food: Fish courses
From the coastal places of the Marches take their origins the most tasty fish recipes, which point out perfectly the value of some fishes. Some special fish receipts, which show their tie with the place of origin, are widely known, thanks to the cookery-skill of the fishermen, who first experimented them.
The fish-Verdicchio combination is perfect and it doesn’t need to be further assessed: indeed, Verdicchio is one of the most suitable wine for fish specialties. An aromatic Verdicchio, with a different mellowing (from 8 to 18 months) according to the receipts, slightly bitterish, soft, savory and full-bodied.
Marche food: cheese
The gastronomy of the Marches reflects the Piceno origin of the population yet has seen the acceptance of the most disparate traditions, as documented by the wide variety of dishes offered. Even in the IVth century a.D. , the renowned Apicio compiled texts regarding roman cuisine, but it was not until the height of the Middle Ages that the first collection of recipes from the Marches was made.
The area of the Park of the Sibillines is rich in natural beauty, but it is also a very important center for fresh produce. Cheese represents a very active market in the zone surrounding Vettore Mountain, as many months of the year, flocks of sheep and bovine graze in these pastures.
Over time, the cheese-making industry has made little change. The rennet is made in the same way it always has been, using the stomach lining of the goats and lambs.
The sheep milk cheese (pecorino) from the Sibilline area is highly sought out in the old towns and farmhouses. A type of cheese produced by individual farmers using strictly traditional techniques is produced in Comunanza.
The Marches’ dairy production is not very wide and it is specialized only in some typical kinds of cheese, such as ricotta, caciotte, fairly salty pecorino, which can be eaten also either young (form December to May) or seasoned (during the whole year).
Sometimes the dairy processes employ empirical methods, bringing forth a most genuine and savory cheese. The “Pecorino” cheese has to be considered a typical product of the Marches.
During the last decade, in the hinterland of Jesi, a repopulation of shepherds from Sicily and Sardinia has been taking place; they have given new strength to the sheep rearing and, as a direct consequence, to the dairy production.
The “Verdicchio- pecorino (seasoned) marriage” joins together harmoniously smells and tastes. This cheese is perfect with a well-structured Verdicchio, produced in selected areas according to the traditions.
Typical food from The Marches includes:
Anatra in porchetta: roast duck stuffed with wild fennel, salt pork, garlic.
Minestra di ceci: soup of chickpeas with pork ribs, tomato, herbs and grated pecorino served over slices of toasted bread.
Muscioli arrosto: mussels filled with ham, breadcrumbs and parsley roasted in tomato sauce.
Passatelli di carne: ground beef and bone marrow, spinach, cheese, breadcrumbs and eggs worked into paste and forced through slots to form thin dumplings, cooked in broth as soup.
Pollo in potacchio: spring chicken braised with onion, tomato, white wine, rosemary.
Quaglie in tegame: quails braised in a pot with white wine, salt pork, tomatoes, peas.
Ravioli ai filetti di sogliola: pasta envelopes with a ricotta-parsley filling dressed with a sauce of sole with white wine and tomatoes.
Stocco all’anconetana: dried cod cooked with olive oil, white wine, milk, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, rosemary.
Zucchine ripiene: small marrows hollowed and stuffed with ground veal, tomato, onion, parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fried.