The most anticipated holiday of the year is just around the corner and I’ve already that mouth-watering feeling, since Christmas in Le Marche is absolutely tasty! Forget for a moment you’re on a diet and all the hard work you did at the gym. Today I will take you to the heart of food traditions, among ancient recipes of mothers and grandmothers, each one characterising a specific area of the region.
On December 24th, according to tradition, fish dishes are the protagonists. The very last chance for a light meal…or nearly so! Appetizers are a triumph of bruschetta (toasted bread with topping) and fried food, including cremini (fried cream) and my favourite olive ascolane (stuffed fried olives). As a first course we generally serve spaghetti with fish sauce or simply with a tomato sauce and anchovies. The excellent fresh fish is used to prepare a delicious soup, in its many variations from north to south of Le Marche, each with its own secret ingredient. In addition, there obviously needs to be the baked cod with potatoes and stockfish all’Anconitana. Between a course and the other, a good sip of homemade sorbet to cleanse your taste.
Christmas means family and family is gathering at a table for the great lunch on 25th December. Whether you’re at your grandmother’s house, at mom’s or aunt’s, a real feast will begin. Food is rigorously prepared to feed double the number of guests, because as my grandmother suggests: “the more, the better”.
Preparation begins a few weeks before Christmas, when it’s time to pull the dough! Our main course in Le Marche for the occasion is Cappelletti filled with mixed meat (pork, beef, chicken and ham). Traditionally, they are served in chicken broth, as well as the other commonly served dish – Passatelli. In Acqualagna, where I’m from, we often serve Passatelli without any borth but with melted butter and some grated white truffle from our land. Let’s not forget the Vincisgrassi, a baked homemade pasta made of thin layers topped with excellent meat sauce and bechamel.
After the bellyful of fish on the day before, now it’s the time for meat. Usually boiled meat from the broth is served along with different types of meat roast and fried lamb ribs. As side dish there’re roasted potatoes, cooked herbs, cauliflowers and fried cardoons. For the luckiest ones, bread and focaccia directly baked in the home wood oven!
Although panettone and pandoro bought at the supermarket are present, each territory in Le Marche has its own sweet specialties. To name a few: Lu serpe, a crust pastry filled with chocolate in the shape of a snake; Bostrengo or Frustingo if you’re in Ascoli, made of rice and dried fruits; Cavallucci con la Sapa, with a filling of chopped walnuts and almonds, raisins and sapa. The most ancient dessert of this holiday is the Christmas Pizza, made with bread dough, nuts, raisins, dried figs, sugar, cocoa, grated rind of lemons and oranges.
Usually dessert is accompanied with a glass of cooked wine, sour cherry wine or local sparkling wine. Finally, the much appreciated digestif which comes from the city of Fano – Moretta: a coffee with anise, rum and brandy drank by fishermen and sailors to warm up before going out to sea. In Ascoli Piceno and surroundings instead, you will drink Anisette, an anise-based liqueur.
Well, our journey is over for today! If I missed something, write me in the comments and share your Christmas lunch experience in Le Marche!
To enjoy your stay and experience local habits and traditions of the Italian peninsula, I suggest you these three villas, equipped with every comfort.
Are you ready to leave?
Villa Rossini – Pesaro (PU)
Villa Oriente – Perticara (RN)
Villa Enrica – Smerillo (FM)