Marche is a region in central Italy that lies along the Adriatic Sea. Its long, sandy coastline stretches down towards Ancona and Conero, a promontory made of large white rocks, incredible beaches and quaint villages. Heading inland, you will pass through the hilly countryside, which has a rich agriculture tradition. The land is dotted with small picturesque cities like Urbino, an UNESCO world heritage site.
Continue west and eventually you reach the Apennines Mountains that separate the Marche from Tuscany. Montefeltro, located along the northern border with Romagna, is an area full of small towns and castles, which have remained unchanged for centuries. Since the time of the ancient Romans, many different cultural and political factors have shaped the character of the Marche. Both the landscape and the gastronomic traditions of the Marche are a reflection of the region’s long history.
The influence of the neighboring regions, particularly Romagna, can be detected in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and the oven-baked pasta dishes in the Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite and is a type of baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers. In and around Ancona, you will find a variety of soups. Minestra di lumachelle is a local favorite and is based on lumachelle, a type of pasta made with egg, cheese and bread crumbs, similar to passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto, or lard pounded together with herbs.
Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto, or fish soups. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and varying other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron. There are also a number of special, regional preparations for the local seafood: in porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork like pancetta or prosciutto; in potacchio, cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, stewed in tomato sauce; or gratinati al forno, or oven-broiled.
People from the Marche, or marchegiani, are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is Porchetta, a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other had, is often cooked in Chianti wine.
Among the regional salumi, Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is a real stand out. Then, there are soppresse, salsicce, or sausages, and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate and is seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel. Some of the best cheeses made in the Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for olive ascolane, or plump, flavorful olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried.
The desserts in the Marche are generally made using popular ingredients, but you may find one or two ancient recipes. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from dough that has been left to rise, then shaped into balls, baked in the oven and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventuous eaters should try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If miglaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frustega, a simple pastry with sapa di mosto, or cooked grape must.
One of the most well known wines produced in the Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine from the hills of Jesi that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells, and tastes like anise.
Some traditional recipes of Marche
Broad Beans with Anchovies
Simple ingredients, easy preparation: authentic Italian culinary tradition.
Tagliatelle with Squid and Prawn
In this recipe, the prawns and squid make for a rich and elegant pasta dish.
Fish soup with soft ascolane olives
The trick for this recipe is the variety of fish and shellfish used, all, needless to say, fresh from the sea.
Traditional Aniseed Cookies (Funghetti di Offida)
Flavored with anise.
History and Gastronomy
Gioacchino Rossini was born into a family of musicians. His father was a horn player and his mother was an opera singer.