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Food & Wine: Le Marche Specialities: Cheese

Cheeses of Le Marche

Le Marche is home to a variety of delicious cheeses, each with its unique characteristics and flavours. Here's an overview of some of the main cheeses made in Le Marche, highlighting the type of cheese and their respective locations:

1. Caciofiore

Type: A cheese traditionally made from sheep's milk, often with the addition of rennet from wild thistle flowers, giving it a unique taste.

Location: Various areas in Le Marche, with a history of making Caciofiore.

3. Formaggio di Fossa

Type: This cheese is made from a combination of cow's milk, sheep's milk, and goat's milk and is aged in underground pits.

Location: The production of Formaggio di Fossa can be found in various areas of Le Marche, including the Urbino and Ascoli Piceno provinces.

5. Casciotta d'Urbino

Type: A soft, creamy cheese typically made from a blend of cow's milk and sheep's milk.

Location: Urbino, in the Pesaro e Urbino province. The city is known for its production of Casciotta d'Urbino, which has gained recognition as a DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) cheese. Michelangelo’s favourite cheese was Casciotta di Urbino and never ran short of this cheese during his artwork. He was so fond of Casciotta that he bought several pastures in the municipality of Urbania (province of Pesaro and Urbino) in order to secure a fresh supply of sheep and cow milk to produce the cheese

2. Caciotta di Montecassiano

Type: A semi-soft cheese, often made from a blend of cow's milk and sheep's milk.

Location: Montecassiano, a charming town in the Macerata province. The cheese is popular in the surrounding areas.

4. Pecorino di Fossa

Type: A sheep's milk cheese that is aged in special pits or "fosse" to develop its unique flavour.

Location: The production of Pecorino di Fossa can be found in various areas of Le Marche, particularly in the region's hilly and mountainous areas.

6. Pecorino di Urbino

Type: Pecorino cheese made from sheep's milk.

Location: Urbino, a historic town in the Pesaro e Urbino province.

Le Marche's cheese production is a testament to the region's diverse landscapes and rich dairy traditions. Each cheese has a distinct flavour profile and cultural significance. Pecorino di Urbino, for example, is celebrated for its sheep's milk flavour, while Formaggio di Fossa gains its unique taste from its underground aging process. These cheeses not only add richness to the region's cuisine but also reflect the deep-rooted traditions of cheese-making in Le Marche.

Cheese-based dishes

Le Marche is a region in central Italy known for its rich culinary heritage, and cheese plays a significant role in its traditional recipes. Here's an overview of some cheese-based dishes you might find in Le Marche's cuisine:

1. Vincisgrassi

This is a regional lasagna dish made with layers of fresh pasta, typically egg pasta, béchamel sauce, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese, and sometimes mushrooms. It's then baked until golden and bubbly.

2. Ciauscolo

Ciauscolo is a type of soft, spreadable salami made from minced pork and various spices, including red wine and Pecorino cheese. It's often served with local bread as a popular antipasto.

3. Casciotta d'Urbino

This is a soft, creamy cheese made from a blend of sheep's milk and cow's milk, which is produced in the town of Urbino. It's often used in pasta dishes and pairs well with local truffles.

5. Crescia Sfogliata

A savoury stuffed bread, often compared to a pizza or a focaccia, it's filled with a mixture of cheese, prosciutto, and various herbs. It's delicious when served as an appetizer or snack.

8. Passatelli

These are a type of pasta made from breadcrumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, eggs, and nutmeg. The mixture is pushed through a tool that resembles a potato ricer, creating unique, worm-shaped noodles, which are often served in a flavourful broth.

4. Olive all'Ascolana

While not entirely a cheese-based dish, these deep-fried stuffed olives often contain a mixture of ground meat, breadcrumbs, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

6. Pizza con Formaggio di Fossa

This pizza is topped with cheese that has been aged in special underground pits or "fosse" for several months. The cheese has a distinctive, intense flavour and pairs well with other local ingredients.

9. Pappardelle al Cinghiale

Wide ribbon-like pasta, called pappardelle, is often served with a rich wild boar ragù and topped with grated Pecorino cheese. The combination of the gamey meat and the cheese creates a delightful contrast in flavours.

7. Crema Fritta

This dessert features a custard made from milk, eggs, sugar, and lemon zest, which is chilled, sliced, coated in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried. The crispy outer layer contrasts beautifully with the creamy interior.

10. Fave e Pancetta

Fava beans are commonly cooked with pancetta and grated Pecorino cheese to create a simple yet delicious side dish.

These are just a few examples of cheese-based dishes in Le Marche's cuisine. The region's gastronomy is diverse and offers a wide range of dishes, each showcasing the local flavours and ingredients, including their love for cheese.

Cheese Festivals

Le Marche hosts a variety of cheese festivals throughout the year, celebrating the region's rich dairy traditions and offering opportunities to savour a diverse range of cheese varieties. Here's an overview of some of the main cheese festivals in Le Marche, highlighting their locations, approximate dates, and the types of cheese they typically showcase:

1. Sagra del Formaggio di Fossa a Sogliano al Rubicone

Location: Sogliano al Rubicone, Rimini province

Dates: This Cheese Festival typically takes place in November.

Types of Cheese: The festival focuses on "Formaggio di Fossa," a cheese that is aged in underground pits, offering a unique and intense flavour. Visitors can also sample other local cheeses.

3. Sagra del Formaggio a Mondavio

Location: Mondavio, Pesaro e Urbino province

Dates: This Cheese Festival usually takes place in August.

Types of Cheese: The festival offers a selection of local cheeses, highlighting the flavours and craftsmanship of cheese production in Le Marche.

2. Festa del Formaggio a Talamello

Location: Talamello, Rimini province

Dates: Talamello's Cheese Festival is typically held in August.

Types of Cheese: The festival showcases a variety of cheeses, including Formaggio di Fossa and Pecorino cheeses, allowing visitors to explore the rich dairy heritage of the region.

4. Sagra del Formaggio e del Vino a Gradara

Location: Gradara, Pesaro e Urbino province

Dates: Gradara's Cheese and Wine Festival typically occurs in July.

Types of Cheese: In addition to various local cheeses, the festival also includes wine tastings, making it a delightful culinary event for cheese and wine enthusiasts.

5. Sagra del Formaggio a Cupramontana

Location: Cupramontana, Ancona province

Dates: Cupramontana's Cheese Festival is often held in September.

Types of Cheese: The festival features a selection of cheese varieties, including pecorino and other dairy specialties.

These cheese festivals in Le Marche provide a delightful opportunity to explore the diverse world of cheese, taste unique and aromatic varieties, and learn more about the region's cheese-making traditions. Be sure to verify specific festival dates, as they can vary from year to year.

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