Food & Wine

The writer Paolo Volponi used to say that the wines of the Marche region were similar to the local people: changing from valley to valley, with their own distinct characteristics. The many characteristics and dialects of the Marche people are highlighted by the morphological structure of the territory, with its valleys from Emilia-Romagna to those of Abruzzo that descend parallel towards the sea.

There is just one exception. The valley comprising Monte San Vicino in the east, the Monti del Catria in the west, the Sibillini in the south with Matelica in the centre: the Valle Camerte, an area producing a unique and versatile wine defined by Marco Soldati as sharp, rustic and refined – the  Verdicchio of Matelica.

 

Described as a full flavored white wine which naturally accompanies fish dishes, it is also ideal with many of the delicious local Maceratese specialties, including rabbit or chicken seasoned with rosemary, roast suckling pig seasoned with wild fennel and even with specialties found at the pork-butcher, ciauscolo in primis.

Bacon chops and shoulder cuts of pork are added to considerable amount of fats in order to keep them tender; seasoned with salt, pepper, fennel, garlic and vino cotto, they are then finely chopped and minced so as to obtain a homogeneous texture to stuff it into the intestines which are used as containers. Next, the ciauscolo is smoked and then kept in a cool and airy place to complete its short curing process.

Along with this exquisite spreadable salami, there are other ways to enjoy pork; starting with the brawn – the salami is eaten as a starter. Following the slaughtering and salting, the real centerpieces are produced from the pork offal – mazzafegato or salsiccia matta. The distinct, pure flavors of the interior areas of Macerata province have similarities and differences with other regions of the Apennines. They also share similar customs including the old tradition of herding.

Lamb has always had a privileged place in both menus in restaurants and in home cooking. In the region of the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini, such as Monte San Martino and Visso, dairies offering handmade produce have also maintained their importance. Remaining on the theme of meat, we mustn’t overlook the work of protection and development carried out over the past years in defense of the cattle breed of the Marche region, which led to a certification method of filleting (whereby on acquiring a cut of meat, it is possible to trace clearly the origins of the productive cycle), which opened the way to similar procedures being adapted in other regions of Italy.

A record in food terms, such as those of organic agriculture and regulatory procedures carried out in order to protect the production of handmade foodstuff from ratification: it is nice to think that in some way, there is a connection between the record achieved and the average age of population, thereby indicating a hope for the future. These are signs of high quality life that we also want to associate with the record number of wine consumers, completely unrelated to habits of alcohol abuse.

With regard to wine: another treasure of the Maceratese wine industry is Vernaccia of Serrapetrona. Produced in a small hilly area, at the foot of a mountain, it is a red wine with both dry and sweet varieties perfect as an accompaniment to traditional desserts, such as pannociato, aniseed biscuits and nougat from Camerino. Regarding aniseed, the mistral, found in Loro Piceno, along with vino cotto, is one of the symbolic flavors of the entire province and is a reminder of a past rural civilization.

The Bianco of Colli Maceratesi and the Rosso Piceno best accompany the rich local specialities of the Macerata province. From fried vegetables to polenta with vegetable to polenta with vegetable and meat sauces to baccalà (a type of preserved cod); from trout of Sefro to fish stews common along the coast and also the famous vincisgrassi. According to the original recipe, it was called ”pincisgrassi” after the codification of Antonio Nebbia, the famous Maceratese cook who had fundamental role in the second half of the 700‘s in the promotion of Italian gastronomy.

Pure and refined flavors are found in the cooking, which is also rich in vegetables (from the herbs to the vegetables preserved in oil, or from the use of precious aromatic herbs to the mele-rosa, a typical locally grown apple), so as to emphasize the many wonderful extra virgin oils found in the region with qualities characteristics of the Cingoli area, the rolling hills around Macerata and the nearby coastal areas.

The coastline offers both intense and delicate flavors thanks to the peculiarity of the local sea and where the local fishing traditions that have always inspired creative seafood recipes such as fish stews and many other traditional dishes, still popular today.

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