Last updated on November 17th, 2023
I love advocating for places like Marche that are truly authentic, full of locals and just waiting to be turned into the next big thing in tourism. Why not get there first, and what better way to visit somewhere new than through its food?
(Le) Marche is a region in Italy that very few people visit, let alone talk about but there are truly some hidden gems in Marche if you take the time to look closely.
Marche is basically divided between its beautiful coastline with picture-perfect seaside towns and the rolling foothills of the Apennine Mountains. That sentence already tells you a lot about its food: we will see a lot of variety!
The local cuisine is reflected in its geography: sweet seafood in abundance on the coast and local meats and delectable pastas as you move towards the mainland.
Deep frying is also very popular, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like that?
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Food from Marche vs Italian Food
There are not huge differences between Marchigiana food and Italian food, but being part of central Italy, the cuisine is largely based on the cucina povera or the poor man’s food, referring to the recipes and style of cooking that uses local ingredients that are calorically satisfying for long days working in the fields.
Marche is home to great produce, which you see in many of their dishes. The same soup will change slightly depending on the season, the fresh catch of the day or what they were able to forage in the hills.
Located on the Adriatic Sea south of Emilia-Romagna, and north of the Abruzzo region, Marche is home to plenty of fresh seafood. It is also east of Tuscany and Umbria, sharing in their cooking traditions with wild game and local ingredients grown in the fields and foraged in the woodlands.
Marche has it all, and the cuisine is very adaptable depending on the season. They can cook amazing food with very little and turn meat into a fantastic ragù. People from Marche also love eating meat, in particularly grilled meats. In fact, Marche consumes more meat than any other region in Italy!
By now, I have your attention so read on so you don’t miss anything on your next trip to Marche!
(Pronounced chow-oo-sko-low in Italian)
You cannot go to Marxhe and not try ciauscolo, a pâtè like salami that is eaten spread on slices of fresh bread. Made with pork, white wine, garlic and pepper, this sausage is aged for at least 15 days.
Learn More: Read all about the Different Types of Italian Sausage.
Prosciutto di Carpegna
(Pronounced proh-shew-toh dee cahr-pen-yuh in Italian)
Every region of Italy has their version of prosciutto and this is Marche’s. This DOP prosciutto is crudo meaning cured instead of cooked and flavored with pepper and paprika. Prosciutto di carpegna is set apart by its color: slightly orange, amber in color due to its aging which is done at a slightly higher temperature than other maturation periods.
(Pronounced char-eem-boh-low in Italian)
This appetizer is a prime example of how in ancient times (and even today in Italy) not one inch of an animal was thrown away. Ciarimbolo is a kind of spreadable paste used on bread made from pork entrails seasoned with vinegar, bay leaves, basil, and orange peel.
Salami di Fabriano
(Pronounced sah-lah-may dee fah-bree-on-oh in Italian)
A simple salame originally made exclusively from pigs raised in Marche in the city of Fabriano.
(Pronounced cah-choh-tuh duhr-bee-noh in Italiano)
This cheese, a specialty from the province of Urbino, is semi-hard and said to have been around for so long that it was a favorite of Michelangelo. I don’t know about that but I know it’s made from mostly sheep’s milk with 20-30% cow’s milk. The taste is sweet, with an almost sour bite from the aging process.
Foodie Tip: if you love cheese then don’t miss Slattato, a cow’s milk cheese with lots of small holes, and Raviggiolo di Montefeltro, a fresh cheese made with very little salt. Read all about formaggio in our Complete Guide to Italian Cheese.
Anice Verde di Castignano
(Pronounced ah-nee-cheh vehr-deh dee cah-sting-yah-noh in Italian)
The green-colored anise, known for its more fragrant and strong concentration of anethoke (the flavor in fennel and anise), grows wild in the Piceno area. It is then distilled into anisette, a digestive liquor commonly drunk after meals. It is also used in baking and making tea.
Olive di Ascolane Piceno
(Pronounced oh-lee-veh dee ahs-coh-lah-neh pee-chen-oh in Italian)
Olive di Ascolane Piceno grow in the Piceno area of Marche, holds the DOP status because of its regional identity. It’s a very large olive that is meaty and crunchy with a bit of a bitter flavor. It is served as an aperitivo and is also used in regional cooking.
(Pronounced oh-lee-veh all ahs-coh-lah-nuh in Italian)
The famous Ascolana olive is stuffed with a mixture of beef and pork, breaded and then deep-fried. We recommend you try them while you are specifically in the Ascoli-Piceno area. You will often see them eaten alone or as a bigger fried platter of mixed vegetables, meats, or seafood.
(Pronounced veen-chee-grahss-SEE in Italian)
When Italians think of Marche, only one dish comes to mind: Vincisgrassi, a luxurious baked lasagna made with egg pasta and filled with rich ragù and bechamel. Unlike typical bolognese, this ragù is stewed with chicken giblets, cloves and a variety of meats depending on the season such as duck and hare, all of which make for a deeper and richer ragù. The added dash of fresh nutmeg gives an earthy depth that cannot be beat.
Minestra di Ceci alla Marchigiana
(Pronounced min-est-ruh dee ceh-chee ah-lah mahr-kee-giah-nuh in Italian)
This is Marche’s poor man’s soup developed as a way to create a meal rich in protein from the local produce and harvest. There is no real recipe for this soup because it changes seasonally depending on which vegetables are fresh. Still, the ceci or chickpeas are always the main ingredient cooked gently with a soffrito of onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.
(Pronounced frah-scah-rehl-lee in Italian)
Another dish born from the cucina povera uses rice and flour cooked together into a type of lumpy polenta and topped with meat ragù and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Maccheroncini di Campofilone
(Pronounced mahk-ker-own-chee-nee dee camp-oh-fee-low-neh in Italian)
This is the handmade pasta of Marche made from only eggs and flour (no water) that cooks very quickly. It’s origins date back to the 16th century and has now been awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status that helps to promote and protect traditional food from a specific area. This pasta is characterized by a very thin dough similar to a square-shaped spaghetti. It is traditionally served with meat ragù but fish sauces are popular as well.
Tip: looking for a regional specialty to bring back with you? Try dried maccheroncini. They are authentic and delicious and while you might have to pack them in your carry-on to avoid damage, there are no restrictions on bringing back delicious pasta!
(Pronounced tahk-ker-own-ee in Italian)
Tacconi is a pasta made with a fava bean flour called “favette bean flour”, native to Marche. Historically, this pasta was important for when wheat was hard to come by, giving the people all they needed to make a healthy and caloric meal. Traditionally this pasta was served with a drizzle of oil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano but today it is eaten with a variety of sauces, including tomato sauce, meat ragù and fish-based sauces.
(Pronounced pahs-saw-tell-lee in Italiano)
Passatelli is another type of pasta from Pesaro and Urbino. This pasta from Pesaro and Urbino is made from a mixture of breadcrumbs, eggs, salt, and Parmigiano Reggiano with the occasional addition of lemon zest and nutmeg. The soft dough is then passed through a potato ricer directly into boiling homemade broth. There is nothing better on a cold evening!
Risotto del Montefeltro
(Pronounced ree-sowt-toh dehl- mont-eh-fell-troh in Italian)
Risotto is prepared in the classic way but amped up with local ingredients such as prosciutto di Carpegna and Casciotta d’Urbino with fresh lemon zest and black pepper.
Tagliatelle al tartufo di Acqualagna
(Pronounced tall-yuh-tell-ley all tar-too-foh dee awk-wuh-lag-nah in Italian)
Egg tagliatelle served in a truffle sauce. Simplicity at its best. Marche is home to nine different truffle varieties, including the prized Magnatum Pico white truffle!
Make It: Try making fresh pasta with my recipe for homemade tagliatelle.
(Pronounced creh-shuh in Italian)
This is similar to a piadina or Italian flat bread made with flour, eggs, yeast, milk and pepper, originating in Urbino but found throughout the region. You can either enjoy it alone, freshly made or eat it as a sandwich stuffed with cheese, meats and vegetables. This is a great on the go lunch or perfect for packing a picnic lunch at the beach.
(Pronounced creh-shuh sfoh-yaw-tuh in Italiano)
Similar to the Crescia, this version is made with flour, eggs, water and lard and most commonly enjoyed warm with sausage and cheese.
Crostolo di Urbania
(Pronounced croh-stow-low dee oor-bahn-ee-yuh in Italian)
Only found in Urbania, this is eaten exactly like crescia but made with cornflour instead of white flour.
(Pronounced kee-KEE ree-pee-en-oh in Italian)
Chichì means pizza or mass in Italian and refers to the dough children are given to play with when bread is being made at home. The story goes that this name comes from this tradition and today this focaccia is riempito or stuffed with tuna, olives, artichokes, anchovies and peppers.
(Pronounced moh-sho-lee in Italian)
Moscioli are what Italians from Marche call muscles but they are specifically referring to the wild variety that is found in the area of Conero. Prepared in a variety of ways, in pastas, as appetizers, and in fish stews, you are sure to find a dish for you!
(Pronounced broh-det-toh in Italian)
This is Marche’s version of a fish stew and every coastal town has its version, believe it or not. Check out Ancona (home to the most famous version made with thirteen different kinds of seafood called Brodetto all’Anconetana), Porto Recanati, and San Benedetto del Tronto, to name just a few, for a taste of the sea. While they each have their recipe, the fish is the star, while the other ingredients will change based on what is in season.
(Pronounced stoh-cuh-fiss-soh all an-coh-neh-tah-nuh in Italian)
Stockfish from Ancona is cooked with tomatoes, herbs, lots of oil and potatoes until tender. This is a dish typically enjoyed during the cold and blustery winter months.
Coniglio in porchetta
(Pronounced coh-nil-yoh in pohr-keht-tuh in Italian)
Translating to “rabbit in pork” this dish refers to the rabbit that is prepared like a classic porchetta, stuffed with herbs, wild fennel and sausage and roasted over a spit until crisp.
Pollo in Potacchio
(Pronounced pohl-low een pow-tah-choh in Italian)
Pollo in potacchio is braised chicken with a simple tomato rosemary sauce. The whole chicken pieces are rubbed with lemon and seared in a hot pan with oil and butter. It is then slow-cooked with white wine, onions and garlic. Lemon rind, chili peppers and tomatoes are added and cooked until soft and tender.
(Pronounced freet-toh mee-stoh in Italian)
One of the most famous dishes is the fritto misto which is a mixture of fried vegetables and meat. You will notice families sharing big platters of various fried foods at restaurants and this is what they have ordered. If you are going to eat one thing in Marche, please get this!
(Pronounced creh-mah freet-tah)
Meaning “fried custard” in English, this is exactly what the name describes: custard is made ahead, set and cut into diamond shapes. It’s then battered and fried deep, golden brown and traditionally served as part of the fritto misto. The sweet creaminess of the custard balances out the tart olives and bold meats. Another dish you shouldn’t miss in our opinion!
(Pronounced ree-coht-tuh cal-choh-nee in Italian)
This dessert may look like ravioli but they are actually pieces of pastry filled with ricotta and lemon zest and deep fried to perfection. Served warm with lemon and honey, these are the perfect thing to satisfy your sweet tooth.
(Pronounced pee-coh-nee in Italian)
Piconi, also known as calcioni of Treia, is the savory version of calcioni, made with a filling of eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano, pecorino, lemon zest, salt and pepper. They are traditionally served around Easter.
(Pronounced froo-sting-oh in Italian)
Also known as fristingo, frostengo, pistengo, or bostrengo, depending on what province you’re in, this dessert comes from the cucina povera as a way to recycle stale bread. Dried fruits, nuts, stale bread and spices are mixed into a cake and served around Christmas time. Although the recipe changes from family to family, some adding lemon, others orange or candied fruit and raisins, nuts and figs are always part of the mix!
Traditional Marche Food FAQ
In some places this is certainly true. Italian cooking is not only defined by its region but also by its province and town. Some villages are so small they are almost like a large family that over time has developed recipes that you can only eat there. It sounds impossible but it actually happens!
Check out Bontà delle Marche in Ancona, a specialty gastronomia or specialty food store selling all food related items from the region. You can get anything from sweets and preserves to baked goods and dried pasta.