Italian Cuisine: The Marches (le Marche)

We’ve now migrated to the East Coast of Italy, to a region that doesn’t leap to the forefront when one thinks of Italy. It lays between the Adriatic Sea and the high Apennine mountains. As with many of the areas that we’ve already discussed, we have a region with Mountains and coastal shorelines, with plentiful farmlands in between. What this means is a variety of approaches to cooking.

They have an active fishing community, so we can expect a fair amount of Italian Seafood dishes, especially the many varieties of Brodetto (fish stews). There are two main versions of Brodetto, one calls for thirteen types of fish, including scorpion fish, eel and red mullet. The fish is cooked with onion, tomato, parsley, pepper, oil and vinegar. The other alternative calls for the fish to be browned and then cooked in a sauce enhanced by saffron.

From the farmlands, we get a fair amount of wheat (think pasta) and poultry. One of the best known dishes from the region is called vincisgrassi, a sort of a lasagna type meal with a deep thick sauce full of consomme, onions, mushrooms, chopped chicken livers and nutmeg. It is then topped with a bechamel sauce…yes, I’m looking for a decent recipe that I can delve into.

Also big in the Marches are olives. Not for olive oil, but for popping into the mouth and savoring. The best known are called olive all’ascolana (stuffed olives). This dish has been around for centuries, being enjoyed by popes, ancient Romans, and Carthaginians. What are the olives stuffed with? Ground prosciutto and pecorino are the base, but some recipes call for adding tomato pulp, bread crumbs, and walnuts.

What strikes me most from my reading about the Marches is how much care is given to the foods. There are many organic farms and vinyards, and from what I’ve been able to tell, they’re very adamant in protecting the differences between cuisine from the Marches versus cuisine from say, Umbria. That makes me very happy when I read about folks with that much passion for their own food.

So over the next few weeks, expect at least three entree recipes, one dessert recipe, and then one post about Le Marche wine. Stay tuned!