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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

a tavola - the cuisine of Marche
(return to food)

Pasta triumphs in the Marche, with preference given to homemade versions. Housewives prepare mountains of wide tagliatelle, and maccheroni destined to be filled with exquisite flavors. The women from Le Marche are traditional good cooks. Even today in the country the would-be daughter-in-law must pass muster with her future mother-in-law: she must know how to lay out a perfectly round layer of pasta that is of uniform thinness, and to cut it in a variety of shapes. Her masterpiece is called "vincisgrassi" (beat fat), a pasta made with eggs, stretched to lightness and cut in rectangles which, boiled, are layered in a casserole with a sauce made from chicken livers and mushrooms dusted with grated cheese, covered with bechamel sauce and baked in the oven.

Pesaro,on the Adriatic sea,is famous for its "brodetto" or fish soup. Also prepared along the coast, the "brodetto marchigiano" made with fish dipped in flour, fried in a mixture of oil, onion and parsley, and flavoured with saffron. Ingredients are different in other areas. Another specialty is the "pecorino di San Leo", a cheese made from sheeps milk, "ricotta" (a kind of cottage cheese) from Urbino, "bazzott" (a local fresh cheese) from Fano, and the "olive ascolane", big white olives filled with a mixture of cheese, egg, nutmeg, white meat chopped and mixed with prosciutto, mortadella and salame, lemon peel and parsley, then dipped in beaten egg and bread crumbs and fried in oil.


Olive all'Ascolana - Stuffed Olives Ascolana Style
The recipe derives from the Ascoli region, and if at all possible you should use olives of the Ascolana strain, which are large, green and mild, and were already renowned in Roman times, when they were eagerly sought out by the gourmands of the Eternal City. This recipe is however more recent, dating to the 17th century. Though they're generally classified as an antipasto, it will also work well as a first course, or as part of a platter of mixed fried foods.

This recipe is drawn from De Agostini's La Mia Cucina; the authors warn not to overstuff the olives lest the stuffing expand as it cooks and split the olives, and also warn that the oil should be hot but not smoking, lest the outsides of the olives burn before the stuffing is done. If you do decide to taste one to test for doneness have a glass of water handy because the inside could still be quite hot even if you have blown on it.

A pound (400 g) of very large mild olives, packed in brine (if you buy them pitted you won't have to do it yourself)
4 ounces (100 g) fresh mild pork sausage
4 ounces (100 g) ground veal
1/2 cup meat broth (bullion is fine)
2 ounces (50 g) diced cured lard (buy this from a delicatessen, or use pancetta or prosciutto fat)
10 ounces (250 g) fine bread crumbs (this will likely be about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup (50 g) freshly grated Parmigiano (see note)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced parsley
A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Oil for frying

Finely dice the veal, crumble the sausage, and saut� them in the butter. When they have browned, sprinkle the wine over them, let it evaporate, stir in the diced lard, and continue saut�ing gently for 5-10 minutes (you want the meat to brown but not burn). Stir in the broth and simmer for five minutes, then remove the meats to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pot.

Stir two heaping tablespoons of the bread crumbs into the drippings. Grind the meat mixture and combine it with the breadcrumbs you stirred into the drippings, then lightly beat one of the eggs and work it into the filling too, with the parsley, grated cheese, and nutmeg. Check seasoning and let the filling rest for a half hour.

Pit the olives if they weren't already pitted, and fill them. The easiest way to do this is to put the filling in a pastry bag or syringe of the kind used for frosting, with a fairly fine nozzle, and squirt the filling into the holes.

Lightly beat the remaining egg. Roll the filled olives in flour, then in the egg, and then in the bread crumbs. Fry them in abundant oil for 15-20 minutes, drain them well, and serve them.

Note: though De Agostini warns not to use too much cheese they forgot to include cheese in the ingredient list. Another recipe for Olive all'Ascolana calls for 3 cups (150 g) for close to three times as much meat, so the quantity given here should be about right.
Serves 4

From, Italian Food


Pasta con Salsa di Noci - Pasta with Walnut Sauce
400 grams pasta
100 grams shelled walnuts
100 grams pecorino cheese
olive oil

Boil the walnuts, remove the light skin and crush them in a mortar with a pestle along with a generous amount of chopped basil and the pecorino cheese, slowly adding a bit of oil. Boil the pasta and add the sauce when cooked.

Spaghetti con Le Cozze delle Marche - Marchigiana Spaghetti with Mussels
6 pounds mussels, cleaned
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 small dried red chile, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup white wine (Verdicchio Classico)
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and chopped
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 pound spaghetti
extra virgin olive oil

In a large heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, heat half the olive oil. Add the mussels, cover, and cook briefly over a high heat until all open, about 5 minutes. Discard any still closed. Drain, retaining the liquid. When the mussels are cool remove from their shells and chop. Reduce the liquid by half, strain, and add to the mussels.

In a separate large pan heat the remainder of the oil, add the garlic, chile, and oregano, and cook briefly until the garlic begins to color. Add the wine, reduce for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring to prevent sticking, for 15 minutes until reduced. Add the mussels, juice, seasoning, and parsley. Heat up the sauce.

Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain. Add to the sauce. To serve, pour over extra virgin olive oil.
Serves 6

From our friends at

This is one of the Marche region's signature dishes, a rich pasta sauce that is mentioned in Antonio Nebbia's Il Cuoco Maceratese, though he calls it princisgras. He was writing in 1784, before the widespread acceptance of tomatoes, and indeed omits them, calling for truffles and prosciutto instead. More modern recipes do call for tomatoes, and also include chicken giblets, which give the dish its characteristic flavor. This recipe is drawn from Ricette di Osterie e di Porti Marchigiani, put out by Slowfood Editore; they note that despite the use of traditional ingredients of the Marche region, the preparation, and in particular the baking, reveals a certain amount of French influence -- this was an important dish for important occasions, of the sort one would have expected to find in an elegant middle to upper class home or a restaurant. And still will on a festive occasion.
To serve 8 you'll need:

For the sauce:
1 1/3 pounds 600 g ground beef (fairly lean)
12 ounces (300 g) chicken giblets (also unborn eggs, testicles, and whatnot if the butcher has them)
2 onions
2 carrots
2 ribs celery
Abundant marjoram
2-3 cloves (the spice, not garlic)
8 ounces (200 g) lard (you'll want the cured kind available in a delicatessen, not rendered lard)
1/2 cup (100 g) unsalted butter
2 pounds (800 g) beef bones
12 ounces (300 g) pork bones
8 ounces (200 g) lamb bones
6 1/2 pounds (3 k) blanched, peeled, seeded tomatoes (or use canned tomatoes)
5 cups grated Parmigiano (this should weigh out to 250 g, about 10 ounces)
3 mozzarellas, diced (about 3/4 pound, or 300 g)
Salt & pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

For the pasta:
5 cups (500 g) flour
6 eggs

For the b�chamel sauce:
Scant cup (90 g) flour
1/3 cup (70 g) butter
3 cups (750 ml) whole milk

Begin by making the meat sauce: Finely slice the giblets and saut� them in the butter with the ground beef, cloves, marjoram, an onion, a carrot, and a stick of celery, leaving the vegetables whole so you can remove them when the sauce is done. In the meantime saut� the bones in the lard with the other onion, stick of celery and carrot, again whole.

When the meats have browned add the tomatoes, half to each pot. Simmer both sauces gently, stirring every now and then; the sauce with the ground beef will take about an hour to cook, while the sauce with the bones will take about two. When they are done, remove and discard the vegetables and the bones, then combine the two.

While the sauces are cooking, make the pasta (see instructions if need be), roll it out dime-thin, and cut it into 4 by 6-inch strips (these are the vincisgrassi; if you are pressed for time you could use fresh pasta sheets and cut hem to shape).

Prepare the b�chamel sauce (see instructions if need be).

Cook the sheets of pasta a few at a time abundant lightly salted water until they're just shy of being al dente (this should take 2-4 minutes), fish them out of the pot with a slotted strainer, run them under cold water, and pat them dry.

Take an elegant oven-proof dish large enough to hold everything, and lay down a first layer of pasta, followed by sauce, diced mozzarella, grated cheese, and a couple of gratings of nutmeg. Put down another layer of pasta, kinking the pieces slightly to help them absorb sauce, then more meat sauce, closing with a layer of pasta. Gently pour the b�chamel sauce over it all, put the Vincigrassi in a 400 F (200 C) oven, and bake them for an hour, covering the pan with aluminum foil if they look like they're over browning.
Serves 4 - 6



Brasato Marchigiano
A piece of beef suitable for roasting, weighing about 2 pounds
3-4 lardoons (1/4-inch square, 4-inch long pieces of lard), rolled in salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, slivered
3-4 cloves
1/4 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
1/4 pound thinly sliced lard
Cheesecloth or muslin and string for wrapping
1/2 bottle dry white still or sparkling wine
2 fresh bay leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste

Gently pound the meat with wooden bar about an inch in diameter (a meat pounder will do fine), explaining that in the past this step was necessary because of the way the animals were raised, and still results in tenderer meats today. Then cut several slits with the grain to insert the lardoons (there's a special tool for this, otherwise make the cut and then slide the lardoon in, guiding it with your finger), and make slits across the grain to insert slivers of garlic and cloves.

Dust the meat well with salt and pepper, wrap it in the thinly sliced prosciutto, then added a layer of lard and wrap everything up in the muslin, tying it securely with string as if it were a salami.

The meat should simmer on top of the stove in a half-bottle or so of white wine, to which a couple of bay leaves were added, for about an hour. Cover it at least partially .

Baccal� in Salsa Piccante -- Baccal� in Spicy Sauce
1 1/3 pounds (600 g) soaked baccal� (see instructions if need be)
A carrot, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
a medium-sized onion, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
8 ounces (200 g) bell peppers packed in oil, finely sliced
4 ounces (100 g) mild black olives
A handful of salted capers, rinsed (you can use pickled if need be, but rinse well)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
A small bunch parsley, minced
Salt, pepper and a hot pepper, shredded

Begin by boiling the soaked baccal� for 15 minutes, Drain it, pat it dry, cut it into moserately small pieces, and flour them lightly. Put the pieces in a broad skillet with the oil and brown them on both sides, then sprinkle them with the wine.

In the meantime, saut� the minced onion, carrot, celery, and hot pepper in some olive oil in a high sided pot. When the onions have browned lightly stir in the tomato paste, thinly sliced peppers, olives, capers, and about a half cup of hot water. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the baccal� will be saltier than fresh fish.

Pour the sauce over the baccal�, dust everything with the minced parsley, gently add two ladles of hot water, cover, and simmer for two hours, checking every now and then to see if you need to add water; the sauce should be thick but not dry.

Escarole and Beans
One head escarole, cleaned and chopped
One tablespoon garlic, chopped fine
Two tablespoons bacon fat with or without bacon chips
Two tablespoons olive oil
Twelve ounces chicken broth; canned broth is fine
Twelve ounces of white beans; great northern beans in a can are excellent, have faith
Pecorino Romano cheese

Saute greens in olive oil and bacon fat for three minutes; turn greens several times. Add garlic, cook a minute or two. Add chicken broth and beans together. Cover and cook about three minutes When greens are tender, serve in bowls or over pasta. Sprinkle with grated Pecorino Cheese.

Fave fresche con pancetta - Fresh Fava Beans With Pancetta
4 lbs. fresh fava beans
1/4 lb. pancetta, diced
1 Tbs. oil
1 cup beef broth
1 onion, thinly sliced
salt, pepper 1
celery stalk
sliced 2 Tbs. chopped parsley

Shell the fava beans (remove the skin if they are very big). Saute the pancetta, the onion and the celery in a saucepan with the oil, stirring frequently. When the fat of the pancetta has melted, add the fava beans, moisten with hot broth and continue to cook. When the fava beans are completely done (about 20 mins.), salt, pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Finocchio con Fontina - Fresh Fennel with Fontina
4 heads fennel
2 oz. butter broth
1/4 lb. fontina cheese

Clean the fennel and cut lengthwise. Boil for 5 minutes in salted water and drain. In a buttered baking dish, alternate a layer of fennel with slices of fontina cheese and butter. Sprinkle with salt, very lightly with nutmeg, and a ladle of broth and put under the broiler. The dish is done when the cheese has melted.

Crostata di Frutta - Fruit tart
see also...
Our Little Secret
Le Marche on Two Wheels
What do you know about The Marches?
The Marchegiana Kitchen
The Marches
Visit other Italian regions
1 cup flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 orange
3 egg yolks
2 cups fruit
preserve or marmalade
1/2 cup
1 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. granulated sugar

Mix the flour with the sugar and the grated rind of the orange. Make a fontana then knead in the softened butter in pieces, the honey and 2 egg yolks. Knead only long enough to mix thoroughly the ingredients. Use two-thirds of the pastry to line a buttered, sugar dusted tart pan. Spread the jam over the pastry. Brush the remaining dough with a beaten egg yolk and use this dough to make strips and lay them over the tart in a crisscross pattern. Bake in a 350 F. oven for about 35 minutes.


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