There's more to Italian cuisine than pasta, as you'll discover in the Marche. With delicious cheeses, cured meats, truffles and speciality dishes this is gourmet heaven.
"Few people seem to go on vacation to the Marche, the region of Italy that lies between Umbria and the Adriatic. Yet it is a delightful area, with rolling hills, great beaches, long stretches of undeveloped coastline and cultured hilltowns such as Urbino. If you take a cheap flight to the Marche – you can fly to Acona from London - you’ll not only escape the tourists who flock to Tuscany and Rome, you’ll be able to try the region’s delicious cuisine. As Fred Plotkin says in his fascinating book Italy for the Gourmet Traveller (Kyle Cathie £14.99), ‘the combination of sea, hills, and mountains’ in the Marche means that ‘there is superb seafood as well as excellent truffles, mushrooms, meats, olives, grapes, and especially cheeses.
Dishes to look out for on your vacation include vincisgrassi, a rich lasagne made with cream, veal ragu and black truffles; brodetto, a fish stew made with garlic and herbs and served over slices of bread; lumache a nove erbe, which is snails cooked with nine herbs – a speciality of the northern Marche; and sarde alla Marchigiana, a dish of sardines which are baked with breadcrumbs, rosemary, parsley and lemon.
As you explore the Marche, you will also find speciality cheeses such as Casciotta, a cheese made from a mix of sheep’s milk and cow’s milk, that Fred Plotkin says was Michelangelo’s favourite cheese. Apparently the great Renaissance artist used to eat keep supplies of casciotta handy so he could eat it while he sculpted. Michelangelo liked it so much he eventually bought land near Urbino and grazed sheep on it, so that he would always have casciotta to eat. Other traditional cheeses from the Marche are Formaggio di Fossa, a pecorino cheese stored in caves, and Pecorino Sotto le Foglie di Noci, a pecorino cheese wrapped in walnut leaves.
In Italy for the Gourmet Traveller, Fred Plotkin suggests restaurants where you might like to eat when you visit the Marche. He also provides some recipes for classic dishes of the region. This recipe for Shrimps Wrapped in Prosciutto, which appears here with permission, is a speciality of Ristorante delle Rose in Marina di Montemarciano. It uses prosciutto from the town of Carpegna, but if that is unavailable you may substitute it with prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele. Prosciutto from Carpegna is saltier than the others."