Passions & Places

Brodetto (Marche Fish Soup)

I Brodetti marchigiani (Broths of fish)

It’s quite amazing to discover just how much literature is written, analysed and discussed over something which appears so simple, ‘brodetto (broth)’, a traditional Marche dish. A dish which probably originated from when fishermen first went to sea and returned to a much awaited bowl of broth after a hard day battling the biting winds and sea water.

It’s also surprising to learn that the flavour, so tastily refined, is produced with the use of less demanded fish, perhaps because they are too small or too few in quantities to sell on the markets. Whilst it was originally a poor man’s dish although prepared with all types of quality fish and skilfully seasoned with good quality Marche olive oil, it’s also a dish which today is protected by the Broth Academy: a consortium of restaurateurs who promote the typical Marche seafood whilst guaranteeing its quality.

Having become a popular and typical Le Marche dish, the broth is today enriched with various ingredients such as shellfish and muscles, whilst maintaining the recipes specific to the various areas of Le Marche, all of which insist on the quality of the ingredients used and the origin of the fish which must come from the Adriatic Sea.

Every place - and every cook – has its own “secret” recipe for the perfect broth: the dish of the gente di mare, the officially recognised versions are those tied to the four most important marine towns of Le Marche, being Porto Recanati, Fano, San Benedetto and Ancona.

Porto Recanati’s broth requires a two stage cooking process: the first is to obtain the broth (which is aromatized using quality saffron typical of Porto Recanati) and the second is to mix the broth with the floured fish and subsequently cook the dish by adding hot water and white wine. Porto Recanati’s broth, which really is unique, comes served with slices of toasted bread.

The broth from Fano, whilst using the same ingredients, in addition uses concentrated tomatoes and substitutes the wine used in Porto Recanati’s version with vinegar. It comes served with a quality Marche bread.

Another variant is that from San Benedetto which was apparently enjoyed by Gioacchino Murat, in his retreat with the Neapolitan troops. The dish is prepared with the addition of chilli peppers, green tomatoes and red and green peppers, soaking all the ingredients with the vinegar and serving the tasty dish with toasted bread.

Finally the broth from Ancona, the oldest and probably the most authentic recipe which insists on the use of thirteen types of fish, cooked in an earthenware pan together with vinegar and tomato juice. The recipe also relies on the importance of adding the different types of fish a little at a time to ensure the exact balance of harmony between flavour and cooking. It’s served steaming hot, accompanied with home made bread.

Four cities, four places in which the sea acts as both the source of life and its enemy. Four types of exquisite broth: reaffirming, as always, that in Le Marche there’s a lot to choose from.

© 2005 Liberation Ventures Ltd.

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