There are some Italian regions which, gastronomically speaking, have an edge, yet remain remarkably little known, Marche in Italy's east, being a wonderful example.
Stretching for around 100 miles along the Adriatic coast with mountains, gently rolling hills and fertile farmland secreting pockets of rural communities, the gastronomically rich region reflects the landscape in its foodscape: from fish soup to stuffed olives.
A region where people like to eat and remain at the table, enjoying all the local food products that the Marche offers, which range from dairy products to vegetables, ancient legumes to special apples.
Check out these 7 unmissable local foods from Marche, Italy which are sure to give you a taste of this diverse region.
1. Lonzino di Fico
Similar to a salami in appearance, the 'lonzino di fico' is acutally made from sweet dried fruit: dried figs, almonds, walnuts and star anise, wrapped in fig leaves. A delicious countryside tradition, born out of the desire not to waste a single fig from the amundant fig harvest. To eat: slice thinly and serve with cheese.
2. Cacio in Forma di Limone
Picture: La Casara Volante
A little known and decidedly original cheese made from raw sheep's milk that can be found in the Valley of the Metauro. The special feature being that after the breaking of the curd, the cheese is set in lemon shaped molds and salted with a mixture of salt and grated lemon peel. The strong citrus flavor makes it popular served as a dessert.
3. Mele Rosa dei Monti Sibillini (Pink apples from the Sibillini Mountains)
Photo: Consulente Turistico Locale
Each region of Italy has its favoured apple. The pink apples of Monti Sibillini grow between 450 and 900 meters above sea level and have an intense aroma with a sweet and sour flavor. In fact, within the Slow Food Presidium, which protects their cultivation, eight different ecotypes have been identified: further proof of the extraordinary biodiversity of Italy.
4. Mosciolo Selvatico di Portonovo (Portonovo Wild Mussels)
Photo: Gusto e Sapori
Mussels that naturally reproduce and live attached to the rocks of the Conero were once traditionally fished in rowing boats, where they were "detached" with a pitchfork. Now their fishing and the industry are closely regulated to preserve the future of mussels.
5. Cicerchia di Serra de'Conti (Pulses from Serra de'Conti)
Small, angular, grey-brown: cicerchia of Serra de 'Conti may have a mouthful for a name, but a relatively simple method of preparation compared to other varieties of pulse; they are ready after (roughly) five hours of soaking and forty minutes cooking time. The versatile ingredient makes a perfect addition to soups or reduced to a purée, whilst the flour, can be used to make fresh pasta.
6. Carciofo di Montelupone (Artichoke from Montelupone)
This particular variety of artichoke is produced in the city and environs of its namesake, where an annual festival attracts thousands of visitors to celebrate the high quality vegetable. If you have ever had the chance to taste Mo scarciofunu or carciofinu, as it is called in dialect, you would understand why.
7. Vitellone Bianco dell'Appennino Centrale (White Bullocks from the Central Apennines)
The meat from the white bullocks of the central Apennines is the only fresh beef approved by the European Community for its specific quality. A recognition of quality standards that manage and protect the breed that produce meat with high nutritional value that is also low in fat. The versatile meat can be cooked in many ways: stewed, braised, boiled or stewed ...
Take a food tour of the surrounding regions and stop off in Veneto and Emilia Romagna for some regional treats.