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Cuisine From Le Marche: The Other Tuscany

Updated on March 20, 2011

A region offering the finest cuisine from Tuscany, Abruzzo and Romagna!

The Italian region of Le Marche is the anti-Tuscany. In very many ways it is the mirror image of its more internationally renowned neighbor. Facing the opposite, eastern coastline of Italy, Le Marche is an undiscovered jewel. Just fifty miles from where wealthy British and Germans are buying up half-collapsed Chiantishire country hovels for millions of Euros just to spend many millions more turning them into grand manor houses, the countryside of Le Marche is dotted with lovely old farmhouses, some dating back to the 13th century, that can be had for less than the renovation expenses for a Tuscany kitchen.

Le Marche is Central Italy the way it was before the foreign hordes invaded, and the cuisine has stayed completely traditional and close to its roots. Le Marche adjoins not only Tuscany, but the Romagna and Abruzzo regions from which it has adopted many culinary delights. It is difficult to imagine cuisines which vary more than the Romagnese and Abruzzan: The former is primarily composed of delicate, fine, sophisticated and refined delicacies, while the latter is rustic, hearty, strongly-flavored and almost craggy peasant food.

Le Marche marries this disparate pair by incorporating their disparate culinary heritage in magnificent dishes, serving in back to back courses without batting an eye a bowl of delectable home made cappelletti (type of ravioli) stuffed with San Daniele Prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano in a light, almost ethereal broth, and then plunking on the table a roast rabbit with a side of chunky patacuc, a type of polenta square cooked in bean broth and served with even more beans. You could hardly ask for a more disparate but delicious meal. If you tend to the rustic, you can always feast on a minestra of cooked escarole and various wild greens with beans and potato, flavored with lard and featuring big chunks of salt cod! Or how about a Vincisgrassi, a form of substantial lasagna with ground beef and chicken giblets named in honor of the Austrian General Windisch-Graetz who defended Ancona against Napoleon! Let's wind up our rustic Marchigian journey with marinated eels, tripe with lemon, stockfish in anchovy and hot pepper, and a nice dessert of Sanguinaccio, which is a mixture of bread crumbs, sugar, orange peel, honey, rum and cinnamon boiled in pig intestine! The Sanguinaccio got its name from the traditional recipe which added a healthy dollop of pig's blood to the mix, but that is rare to find these days as is another dessert made with pig blood, the Migliaccio.

If that is a bit too rustic for you, then the Marchigian cuisine offers heavenly gourmet delights from its northern Romagna neighbor, such as a guinea fowl baked in a pyramid and Brodetto which is an extraordinarily rich fish soup, very similar to a more brothy cioppino or bouillabaisse, teeming with crayfish, soft-shelled crab, shrimp, cuttlefish and the best and freshest fish served over fried slices of thick country bread! Of course you can't possibly leave Le Marche without savoring their spectacular home made potato gnocchi served piping hot under a ladling of the richest ragu sauce you have ever tasted, since in Le Marche it is prepared with cloves, nutmeg and, yes, sliced chicken stomach! Of course, the greatest Marchigian prize of all is the delectable local truffle which you can have grated on pasta, stuffed into all varieties of meats, and flavoring every type of sauce!

Dining in Le Marche is like taking a journey through Central Italy. Far more varied and adventurous than its Tuscan neighbor, it is truly one of the great regional cuisines of Italy.

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