The cuisine of the province of Macerata varies considerably between the coastal delicacies such as sea snails in a spicy sauce, to the western reaches, where meats, game and poultry dominate the menus. The terroir of the hills that rise inland from the coast are ideal for winemaking and the province boasts eight DOC and DOCG wines in both red and white varietals. Unquestionably, the most interesting is Vernaccia di Serrapetrona. It is the only sparkling red DOCG wine in Italy. It is also unique because it is the only wine which is fermented three times.
The entire region of Le Marche remains one of the most rural of Italy’s 20 regions and waste is frowned upon. Many of the most fashionable dishes originally were created to make the best use of the entire animal, as can be found in the recipes for Pollo alla Maceratese and Princisgras Lasagna, which are included in this week’s selections.
Bomboletti al Sugo
This simple and tasty dish is very popular along Macerata’s Adriatic Coast in towns such as Civitanova Marche.
6 lbs sea snails
2 cloves of garlic
3 anchovies thoroughly washed
1 small handful parsley leaves
1 hot red pepper
4 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 glass dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste diluted in a glass of warm water
Wash the sea snails in salted water. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with the anchovies, parsley and hot pepper until ground. Heat the olive oil in a large pan until hot, but not smoking. Pour in the mixture and cook for 3 minutes. Add the white wine, tomato paste mixture and combine. Add the sea snails in their shells and mix a number of times. Continue cooking for at least 45 – 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste and serve hot.
Le Marche is famous for the rich lasagna called Vincisgrassi. The original version of the béchamel dish came from Macerata and was called Princisgras.
For the Meat Ragù
1 tbsp of lard
4 oz of thick-sliced pancetta, minced
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb pork loin, finely chopped
1 lb stew beef, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
5 oz dry white wine
2 oz tomato paste
10 oz vegetable stock
12 oz sweetbreads, chicken livers and hearts, roughly chopped
fine sea salt, as needed
freshly ground black pepper, as needed
For the Béchamel Sauce
4 oz of unsalted butter
4 oz plain flour, sifted
1 quart whole milk
For the Lasagna
1 lb fresh lasagna sheets
1 tbsp of butter, for greasing the pan
Parmigiano, grated as needed
Melt the lard in a large, deep-sided saucepan over a medium flame. When hot, add the pancetta and allow the fat to render. Next, add the chopped celery, carrot and onion and sauté gently until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the pork and beef. Season well and brown the meat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Once browned, pour over the wine and allow it to evaporate, using a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom of the saucepan. Finally, add the tomato paste and stock, cover and cook over a very low flame for at least 2 hours. Half an hour before removing the ragù from the stove, add the sweetbreads, chicken livers and hearts. Finish cooking the ragù, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
For the béchamel, place the butter in a medium, deep-sided saucepan and cook over a medium flame. When melted, add the flour and whisk to combine into a paste. Pour the milk over the paste in a thin stream, while continuously whisking. Finish cooking and whisking the béchamel until dense, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking dish with butter and spread a ladle of béchamel on the bottom of the dish. Cover with a layer of pasta sheets, followed by a layer of ragù, béchamel and grated cheese. Continue with the layers until you have reached the brim of the dish. There should be three layers at least, finishing with meat, béchamel and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until deeply golden and crisp on top. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5-8 minutes before serving.
Pollo alla Maceratese
Proving that nothing in an Italian kitchen goes to waste, this delicious recipe uses the chicken giblets to make a rich sauce, while the backbone of the chicken can be used to make the stock.
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 roasting chicken, cut up into 6 pieces
1 cup chicken stock
juice of 1 lemon
2 egg yolks
salt and pepper to taste
minced parsley for garnish
Wash the chicken pieces and then dry off. Liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chop the giblets into very small pieces. You will discard them at the end of the recipe.
In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold the chicken pieces in two layers, add the butter and olive oil and melt together over a medium flame.
Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides in two batches, 5-10 minutes each. Do not move the pieces around until the skin has a caramelized coating. Remove the pieces and set aside to rest. The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point.
Add the chopped-up chicken giblets to the pot and sauté until the bits are deeply browned. Return the chicken to the pot, putting the dark meat (wings, thighs, drumsticks) on the bottom and the white meat on the second layer and add the chicken broth.
Cover, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter and cover with foil.
Strain the reduced chicken broth and giblets through a sieve and return to the pot. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and drain off any excess.
Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Remove the broth from the heat. Whisk the egg-lemon mixture into the broth to create a creamy sauce. If the sauce is too watery, return to a low heat and reduce. Serve the sauce over the finished chicken and sprinkle with a little minced parsley.