Terre del Conero





In this section you will find many interesting facts and insights about our area, its food and traditions. You will also come across many tips about healthy eating, and there are some simple recipes that you can use to enjoy our products.

Pasta

Pasta, a food that has always been present at the table, became more widespread during the seventeenth century, with an increase in production and thus with the proliferation of pastashops. The Ancona price lists of the seventeenth-century record a factor that distinguished the quality of the pasta. A decisive factor determining quality was whether or not the ingredient saffron was added. Saffron could artificially guarantee that deep yellow colour, an indicator of quality for fresh pasta, and a sign of an abundance of eggs in the recipe. The absence of saffron would lower the price of each type of pasta like  noodles, vermicelli, macaroni or even Maccarini, that was a long pasta that had a subtle taste, similar to the ‘capellini di angelo’, nowadays also called macaroni.

Nowadays in restaurants and taverns or inns of the Conero area, that offer the best flavours and local products, it is common to find types of pasta that are highly suitable for seafood dishes. You can find long sized pasta or conventional short pasta, that can be industrially made (spaghetti, vermicelli, linguine, ciabattoni), pasta made by small firms, as well as homemade varieties (tagliatelle, tagliolini, maltagliati).

As some might remember however, in the small rural villages of the Conero, when fish or shellfish were caught from the sea, the pasta that was used was egg-based tagliatelle, prepared, as was the custom in those times, at home. In the rural economy of self-consumption, in fact, pasta was made at home, without buying it from an outside source, because families were too poor to buy goods. Goods were 'purchased' in rural households very rarely, such as during the threshing of wheat, one of the most convivial and important occasions in rural societies.

Often it was the sharecropping contract that regulated and imposed farmers to buy industrial pasta at the optimum moment of the harvest, that was celebrated with banquets that were shared with the owners, drivers (employees that would operate the machinery) and laborers. One of the most eagerly awaited dishes was precisely the "boccolotti del batte', which was a short pasta made by the industry (generally remembered as the so-called "fischioni"or even the "rigatoni "), richly dressed with a dense and rich mince sauce.

Among the first courses for this special occasion, in addition to "boccolotti ', one can also recall the «tagliatelle del batte», without forgetting oven-baked lasagna like the characteristic "vincisgrassi', a traditional dish of the Marche, which differs from the standard lasagna recipe because in ancient recipe books it was supposed to be a really messy pasta placed into an oven dish, with a side cover of  pasta brisè, made with the same ingredients of flour and eggs.

The oldest version of this recipe , with the name ‘princisgras’, can be found in an old cookbook called ‘The Cook of Macerata’, written by Antonio Nebbia , and printed in Macerata in 1784. The dressing is exclusively white, with chopped ham, mushrooms and truffles. This evolved in time until it had the name we know today (which tradition has associated with General Windisch- Graetz , in Ancona in 1799 ). Tomato sauce was added, and the dish was enhanced with chopped giblets instead of the original leg of pork, a sign of a more humble contribution to the dish on the part of the hard-working farmer in preparing this kind of pasta. Another equally elaborate pasta dish is, of course, pasta with a filling. In particular Cappelletti, strictly eaten in broth and generally confined to the Christmas holidays. This was prepared during Christmas Eve. And the whole family participated in this event, making it a very special moment of the year. It became a part of the collective memory.

Another type of ancient pasta, which survived over time however, (and is now combined in restaurants with tempting toppings of fish) is gnocchi. It should be noted that, in the past gnocchi was also made ​​without potatoes. It was difficult to grow this crop in the Marche area before the late eighteenth century. An interesting piece of evidence in this regard can be found in the recipe for gnocchi made with water, flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, found in an almanac printed in Ancona in 1819, the Fa per tutti.

Some pasta recipes have been lost for several reasons. For example, no repertoire of pasta dishes of this region today shows the "Recchiatelle of Mount Conero," quoted in an undisputed gastronomic volume compiled by two authorities, Luigi Veronelli and Luigi Carnacina. The volume, dedicated to the cuisine of central Italy, was called ‘Cucina rustica regionale’, and was printed in 1974. It is, as is undoubtedly suggested by Ancona dialect, a kind of orecchiette pasta, mixed with white flour (600 g), a little bit of olive oil (half a tablespoon) and an egg, then modelled in its canonical form which is obtained by pressing the thumb on a ball of dough, and then, once cooked, seasoned with a sauce of braised meat gravy.


Tommaso Lucchetti,
Historian of gastronomic culture and creative arts



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Terre del Conero Agricoltori per Natura, soc. coop. agr. Via Peschiera 30, 60020 Sirolo (AN) P.IVA 02474980428
European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development