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The Cooking and Cuisine of Le Marche


Kevin72
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March brings us the cooking of Le Marche, another little-known and explored region of Italy in cookbook literature. I myself don't know too much about the region so this intro entry will be unfortunately brief.

Situated below Emilia-Romagna on the Adriatic coast, Le Marche borrows elements of its cuisine and cooking from its northern neighbor, according to Waverly Root in The Foods of Italy. It also, in my opinion, shares some similarities with Umbria to the west, particularly as you go inland: lots of game and particularly game bird cooking. It does seem to be a little "hotter" to me, however, and seems to use more chilies in its cooking than the spartan Umbria.

Famous dishes: Vincigrassi, which Root describes more or less as a cucina povera variation on lasagna Bolognese. Instead of a luscious ragu bolognese, this dish uses a ragu of organ meats and giblets, as well as mushrooms from the countryside. Olives Ascolana are large green olives, stuffed with a mixture of spiced salami and then breaded and fried. Like other Central Italian regions, porchetta is cooked here, and there is an interesting trend of cooking many non-pork dishes en porchetta, that is, stuffed with fennel, rosemary, and garlic. So you can find rabbit, snails, mussels, and calamari en porchetta. Finally, along the coast there are many famed variations on brodetto, the seafood soup or stew of the region, often utilizing saffron. Root gives a wonderful account of this dish in his book.

Resources are again, fairly limited, though there is Cucina of Le Marche by Fabio Trabocchi which was just released last October. I'll try and check it out this month.

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And I walked nearly four miles to fetch that book last night, past the roller bladers with flashing lights all over their helmets, legs and arms assembled at the gates of the White House!

Already made the chestnut soup and sampled the risotto with cinnamon when serving at the chef's demo at my farmer's market and can recommend both, provided vacuum-packed chestnuts are still available. I think I mentioned a less than positive book review in the LA Times (not by Russ Parsons), alluding to failures with some of the recipes, particularly the pasta dough with lots of eggs. However, a lot of the dishes look wonderful.

While few of us have been consulting Ada Boni for our meals, I want to say that for Le Marche, there are some that do look worth making. Lynne Rosetto Kasper's Italian Country Table (right?) also has a few recipes from this region. Perhaps Carol Field's book on nonne, too?

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I've spent considerable time in Le Marche, in both the mountains (Urbino) and on the coast (Pesaro) -- although both are in the North of the zone. I'll see if I can contribute any information.

The one dish that comes to mind when I think of the mountains is pollo in friccò. This more or less consists of chicken which is browned in olive oil, then braised in white wine with fresh rosemary, garlic and juniper berries. The way I was taught to make it, you keep only a shallow layer of white wine boiling furiously over high heat, and replenish as necessary. When a bottle of wine is boiled away, the chicken is ready. Grocery stores would package cut-up chickens together with fresh rosemary, garlic and juniper berries "ready for friccò."

The cooking by the coast, as you may imagine, is quite different. I had a lot of fritto misto out there. One thing that I thought was interesting and unusual is that, in the locals' seafood restaurants I frequented where one price got you everything, they typically served many different small dishes as the antipasto. There is also a tradition there of serving seafood with fresh pasta, which is not the common practice throughout Italy.

--

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Stoccafisso, perhaps? Can't say to what it extent it differs from that in the Veneto or Liguria (as mentioned in both respective "Cooking of" threads). Some Marchean restaurants that serve it, though, are proud to display their membership in the Marche chapter of the Stoccafisso Academy.

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Spaghetti coi moscioli — spaghetti with mussels Portonovo-style

Le Marche is a region that presents contrasts, above all between the sea and the inland hinterland, a country of soft rolling hills that lead up to the Apennines, with isolated fortress-topped villages that look across to each other. Inland foods similarly contrast with the cucina di mare of the coast - here in the hills more robust foods such as smoked trout, coniglio in porchetta (rabbit stewed with garlic and wild fennel) and rich ragù di anatra (duck sauce to have over homemade egg noodles) are accompanied by similarly warming, richly flavoured red wines such as Rosso Cònero made from the characterful Montepulciano grape.

Meanwhile, back by the sea, moscioli - the local name for mussels (cozze in Italian) - are cultivated in the protected bay of Portonovo and harvested and served in any number of simple trattoria, tables by the beach, the sea literally lapping at your feet.

My friend Angelo's father is a fisherman in Ancona. His mother showed me how to make this typical preparation for spaghetti coi moscioli. The key, she told me, is to choose mussels that are not too big. The pasta and shellfish, bathed in a slightly piccante tomato-and-mussel broth/sauce, is most perfectly partnered with an equally forthright and full flavoured white wine from the region, ideally a well-structured Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or Verdicchio di Matelica.

Spaghetti coi moscioli - spaghetti with mussels Portonovo-style

Serves 4

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 red chili pepper, finely chopped

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tin chopped organic tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 kg live mussels

2 glasses dry white wine

1 lb spaghetti

Scrub and clean the mussels, discarding any that do not close when given a sharp tap. Rinse well. Take about half the chopped onion, garlic and chili and add to a pot together with the dry white wine. Bring to the boil. Throw in the mussels, cover and steam for 4-5 minutes, until all the mussels have opened. Set aside, reserving the cooking liquid. When cool, remove the mussels from their shells, reserving 8 or so in the shell to garnish.

In a saucepan, heat the oil over a medium flame and sauté the remaining onion, garlic and chili for 5 minutes, taking care not to burn. Add the tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Towards the end of cooking, add a few ladels of the mussel cooking liquid to make a thinnish but flavourful sauce. Add the cooked mussels five minutes before serving and keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Mix well with the tomato-and-mussel sauce, and serve, garnishing each bowl with a few mussels in the shell.

MP

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Often lumped together with Umbria, Le Marche (lay mar-kay) stands very tall, all on its own. It’s got it going on: great coastline, beaches, hills, mountains, wine and lots of fabulous food.

Let’s crack open a bottle of Verdicchio and enjoy this month!

I need to make a disclaimer: I went to chef school, Ital.Cook, in Jesi, in the Marche, so I come to this month with lots of enthusiasm and with certain prejudices. The people and producers that I met in the Marche were spectacularly proud of their food and wine. They take their food seriously, almost religiously seriously.

The Marchigiani, or people of Le Marche, have a long history of respecting the land and the sea. No piece of land goes untilled or forgotten; they are thrifty people by nature and use every bit of every animal that is raised. It is a naturally beautiful region, and is very simpatico with the Slow Food philosophy.

The Marche is fantastic in the spring, the markets are literally bursting with produce. Fava beans by the ton, artichokes, fresh peas, early lettuces, it’s a cornucopia of delights. gallery_14010_2363_80651.jpgSpring is also the time to head into the hills to forage for wild asparagus and herbs. In the fall, we go back to the woods for porcini, truffles and wild boar.

The Adriatic supplies the fish, and it’s a lot of the same varieties that we found in the Veneto, only they seem cheaper, more abundant and fresher. The fresh anchovy is venerated here, there are a bazillion recipes for anchovies, but the raw, marinated ones are the best. The town of Senigallia is a big fishing port and home to two very well respected fish restaurants: Uliassi and La Madonnina del Pescatore.

A fish soup, by any other name would be a brodetto, a zuppa or a cacciucco; but whatever you call it, in the Marche, a brodetto is divine. As with any fishing village, the brodetto’s were made with the left over or damaged fish of the day, and each of the coastal towns of the Marche has their own variety, which they claim is the most ‘authentic’, or the oldest, or the best. The most classic brodetto is probably the “Brodetto all’Anconeta”, with its main ingredients including: olive oil, onion, garlic, vinegar, parsley, strained tomatoes and chili peppers. gallery_14010_2363_20609.jpg Once you go south of Monte Conero, the brodetto of Porto Recananti incorporates saffron and is more creamy in texture. North of Ancona, the Brodetto di San Benedetto del Tronto, includes green and red peppers and green tomatoes. The brodetto alla Fanese uses tomato concentrate or tomato paste and vinegar. All of these brodettos include as many varieties of fish as you can find that day, the only rule is that the fish must be very, very fresh. gallery_14010_2363_52494.jpg

Another classic Ancona fish dish is stoccafissa, or air dried cod, baked with potatoes and tomatoes. This dish is one of those that benefits from being left over night and tastes better the next day. gallery_14010_2363_65307.jpg

When you get tired of fish, head inland; there it becomes more like Umbria, with game and courtyard animals served frequently. And we are certainly in the land of the pig, Fabriano, which is known for papermaking, is also known for some of the finest salumi’s produced in Italy.

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Le Marche produces both soft and hard wheat, so you will find a tradition of fresh and dried pastas. An interesting pasta is “maccheroncini” which uses an incredible number of eggs, and cooks in under a minute.

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As in Umbria, pecorino and other sheep cheeses are prominent; however there are a number of thriving buffalo mozzarella producers located near Jesi.gallery_14010_2363_93855.jpg

The two principal wines of the region are Rosso Conero and Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi.

The full bodied red wine, Rosso Conero, is produced south of Ancona, using Montepulciano grapes. Bob Dylan is a part owner of vineyard that produces Rosso Conero, anyone remember the name of the vineyard?

Verdicchio is the name of the grape that produces Verdicchio wine and there are two “schools” of Verdicchio wine: dei Castelli de Jesi and from the small microclimate of Metallica. Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi tends to be more fruity, more buttery, while the Metallica version is a bit more flinty and mineral tasting.

Dolce anyone? The Marche has a solid repertoire of biscotti, and ciambelle. The desserts are more of the dunking cookie type, than a frothy Venetian confection.

All in all, you may have some challenges finding cookbooks from the Marche, but it will be worth the trouble. Enjoy!

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Fantastic overview Judith and wqually great pictures. Well, After that and the other comments about Le Marche, Fabio Trabocchi does not have much to add. The only fact not mentioned yet is that Le Marche is made up of four natural regions divided by rivers (sounds great already). The regions are Pesaro Urbino, Ancona, Macerata and Ascoli Piceno. All these regions however still share Le Marche's rich and various seafood, great truffles, varied produce (tomatoes, fennel, garlic, lavender, rosemary, peahces, plums,...) and excellent farm raised animals and wild game.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Yay, finaly an exxcuse for me to translate some recipes from my Le Marche cookbook!

I have friends coming for lunch next week I think I'll make this the theme :biggrin:

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Wonderful, wonderful photos and description, Judith. Your pic of brodetto is particularly appetizing and brings back fond memories. I went out from Fano once with a trawler fishing for pesce azzurro - sgombro (mackerel), acciughe or alice (anchovies) and suro (horse mackerel). It was a fascinating experience - two trawlers positioned themselves side by side and dragged a large net between them, trailing out from behind. Once it was full, the net was winched in by the trawler that I was on, a massive ball containing some hundreds of kilos of blue fish that spilled wriggling and glistening into the hold below. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch from that daily catch, actually cooked on board as we headed back to port.

Fish anywhere in Italy, and especially along the Adriatic coast, is delicious but usually expensive. Pesce azzurro by contrast have always been the diet of the poor, the fishermen themselves. Of course we now know that such oily blue fish are among the most healthy that we can eat! Also, for my taste, among the most delicious. One of the best places to sample pesce azzurro is in Fano itself at the 'Self-Service Al Pesce Azzurro' where the Comparsca fishing cooperative runs, in season, an excellent cafeteria style inexpensive restaurant serving the catch of the day. If you're in the area, it's absolutely not to be missed!

Self-Service Al Pesce Azzurro

Viale Adriatico, 48

61032 Fano

tel 0721 803165

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I loved your summary with pictures, Judith! Just one question: I thought all sheep cheeses were by definition pecorini. Is that incorrect?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Given the designation of DOP, Casciotta D’Urbino is made primarily, but not exclusively from ewe's milk: 70-80 percent, the remainder from cows. On the other hand, Cacio La Forma di Limone is produced exclusively from sheep's milk, though the lemon shape of the small cheeses hints at the presence of zest in the rind. A few of Le Marche's cheeses are defined by method of production more than by the interchangeable source of milk. Ambra di Talamello sometimes is made with sheep's milk and aged underground.

* * *

Great introduction, Judith. I had no idea Jesu was here in Le Marche and thus holds such fond memories for you. Lovely introduction since you illustrate the range from herbs to fish to quadruped beasts. I still find myself somewhat affected when looking at the gaping mouths of sharp-toothed fish poking up from pots, imagining pale tongues swollen from steam.

Fabrio Trabocchi's introductory remarks are a bit sentimental, though the emotion is genuine. The chef may express himself better through his culinary skills, but he wants you to know how much his birthplace means to him and how much it shaped him even if it is little known by others. Even though his collaborator, Peter Kaminsky, is an excellent food writer, I get the impression that there was much more interest in getting to the recipes than in providing a detailed account either of the place or his personal experience of it. It is certainly not in the vein of Lidia Bastianich's more colorful exploration of her geographical/culinary heritage, nor modelled on Matt Kramer's well-researched survey of Piemonte.

I also found what Elie mentions interesting: the fact that the four regions share in a taste for fish and seafood as well as game, etc., instead of being sharply diverse. In many respects the book confirms what Kevin said about Umbrian affinities, especially when it comes to porchetta, rabbit and truffles.

There is mention, too, of Ancient Greece, North Africa and other "cosmopolitan influences" though I wish the remarks were developed. There might be specific information in the paragraphs introducing recipes since some compare a dish from Le Marche to other ones from other regions of Italy. For example, Urbino's passatelli, Trabocchi notes, are made in the same fashion of Emilia-Romagna, but with meat and not just egg, cheese, breadcrumbs and seasonings.

Family history plays a role in a very brief mention of Le Marche's agricultural past. He attributes his interest in food to the fact that the Trabocchi had all farmed in a regional tradition known as mazzadria which is compared to sharecropping, though it sounds to me like a continuation of the feudal system. What he recalls fondly is the communal spirit of the old way of life that was lost during his childhood.

One recipe that caught my eye is for pasta cooked by absorption of broth, like risotto. Here's a description of the method on Chocolate & Zucchini if for an inventive recipe.

And here's Fabio Trabocchi's restaurant in case you want to compare his region's dishes to what he serves well-heeled Americans: Maestro. N.B. The link may default to hotel's web site. You'll find "Dining" on the left, with "Maestro" offered as sub-category to click.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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I let desire overtake common sense. :shock:

Now, how many movie plots revolve around that premise??

Pontormo warned me, and I thought I could handle it.

I wanted to make passatelli. I think passatelli is a great comfort food. I'd just made a batch of chicken brodo. I had all the ingredients, except I didn't have a proper 'extruder', so I went in search of a potato ricer. The only potato ricer I could find was an OXO one, nice handles, but I knew the holes were pretty small. I figured if I got the mix fine enough, I could still extrude the passatelli.

I did the research, compared 3 different recipes, picked one and added some walnuts because my favorite passatelli restaurant does that.

I figured wrong.

The holes were just too damn small. gallery_14010_2363_143520.jpg

However, adversity being the mother of invention. I present "pasatell-ini"!

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Little bitty bits of passatelli. You know, in some ways, it almost worked better. Sometimes passatelli can just be too much, too thick in the mouth. This gave you the flavor, but not the substance.

Now I've got some left over passatelli dough, and I'm wondering what I can invent now. I'm thinking little fried pasatelli gnocchi.....

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

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I hadn't even thought of the size of holes on ricers--just sturdiness! :sad: Lesson learned. Take it back. Something new to search for when you go back to Umbria. Meanwhile, I am sure Franci has the right utensil to give us a demo should passetelli be to her liking. The recipes that Trabocchi & Ada Boni supply for Le Marche include meat, especially marrow, in the extrusions.

Here's a recipe I came across from Trabocchi's book that is available on line. It is one example of an Italian chef in the United States inventing something new in the spirit of his own region's cooking--and using a rather dramatic, original technique that probably enhanced his reputation at the James Beard Foundation as well as prospects for doing Iron Chef.

P.S. Sometimes short is sweet. How did the gnocchettini come out?

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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What a wondeful and personal intros to the food of Le Marche! Thank you everyone.

Recipes for dishes attributed to Le Marche can be found on Cibo Che Passione

Bean soup "Zuppa di fagioli"

Cheese Pizza "Pizza al formaggio"

Chick pea soup "Minestra di ceci"

Chicken breasts with truffle "Petti di pollo trifolati"

Chicken in potacchio Ancona style "Pollo in potacchio all'anconetana"

Courgettes with pancetta "Zucchine al guanciale"

Dried cod fish in potacchio

Drunken tuna Marches style "Tonno briaco alla marchigiana"

Fish soup Ancona style "Brodetto all'anconetana"

Frustingolo Marches style "Frustingolo marchigiano"

Macaroni Pesaro style "Maccheroni alla Pesarese"

Meat passatelli soup "Passatelli di carne"

Peas in Bardino style "Piselli in Bardino"

Rabbit in porchetta "Coniglio in porchetta"

Red mullet Ancona style "Triglie all'anconetana"

Roast mussels "Muscioli arrosto"

Sea bream Ancona style "Orate all'anconetana"

Small dried fruit and nut cakes "Beccùte"

Stew Marches style "Umido alla marchigiana"

Stuffed olives "Olive ripiene"

Vincisgrassi (lasagna of Le Marche made with ground pork, mushrooms, tomato and bechamel sauce and topped with local truffles)

The roasted mussels sound particularly delicious. The mussels are baked in the oven after being covered with a stuffing of finely chopped proscuitto, pureed tomatoes, parsley and breadcrumbs.

Some info on liquid refreshments in Le Marche: click

The wines of Le Marche include full bodied DOC reds like Ancona's Rosso Conero, the popular Rosso Picenoand and the sparkling Vernaccia di Serrapetrona (DOCG). However the real standout of Le Marche is its white wines, especially Verdicchio (dei Castelli di Iesi or di Matelica - both DOC), considered by many to be the absolute best wine to have with seafood. Bianchello del Metauro (DOC) is a traditional straw colored white that is excellent with Le Marche's shellfish. Spirits of Le Marche include home made Grappa and other infused liquors but the most popular is Mistra, an anise liqueur used as a digestivo.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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...

Vincisgrassi (lasagna of Le Marche made with ground pork, mushrooms, tomato and bechamel sauce and topped with local truffles)

...

Has anyone had this dish? It sounds incredible!

Here is another brief overview of food in the region: click

The food of Le Marche equally shares from the bounty of the sea as well as the farm. Brodetto is the most famous fish stew of the Adriatic coast and varies in form from each coastal town. The Le Marche versions of Brodetto include red and gray mullet, cuttlefish or squid (or both), oil, garlic and saffron - served on either fried or toasted bread. Other seafood favorites include the port of Ancona's Stoccafisso (dried codfish, which is not native to the Mediterranean), and local varieties like sole, bream, clams and mussels, Vincisgrassi is the lasagna of Le Marche made with ground pork, mushrooms, tomato and béchamel sauce and topped with local truffles. Favorite meats include veal, rabbit, game birds (quail, pigeon), chicken and goose. Both meats and fish are usually done either in a porchetta style using fennel, garlic and rosemary or potacchio (with onion, tomato, white wine and rosemary). Pecorino, especially young Pecorino is the most favored cheese of Le Marche but Casciotta d'Urbino (PDO) is also popular. Le Marche desserts are not overwhelmingly sweet and often use sweetened cheeses like Pecorino or Ricotta as ingredients such as Calcioni and Piconi. Other desserts include a Pizza Dolce, or sweet Pizza and Frustenga, a cake made with raisins, figs and walnuts.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Beware the Vincigrassi debate!!

This is one of those dishes with lots of variations and recipes that can be debated endlessly.

The recipe I have calls for a sort of bolognese type sauce, but with the addition of chicken hearts, livers, giblets, coxcombs etc.

It was just too....chewy....for me, but PM me if you want another recipe.

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H, since you live in Manhattan: Italian ricer with interchangeable bottoms, natch.

Target has wide range of ricers, including one for around 40 bucks that sounds promising since it is also called a spaetzle press. I'm not providing a link since image does not include shot of the holes.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Very nice Passatelli-ini Hathor. I bet it tasted great. I am hoping to cook something this week since I will be out of town starting Thursday. Maybe a soup or something.

I was actually a little disappointed that Trabocchi does not have a traditional recipe for Vincigrassi. He does say that the 'real' one has liver and giblets and such. The one he provides is adjusted for our American sensibilties with ground veal and such. Then again I can always add some giblets and other things on my own. Also I am not too sure if I'll use his pasta recipe with 16 egg yolks!!

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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