Marche Food & Wine


Il Pecorino

As elsewhere, the habit of raising sheep and of making cheese has the most ancient origin in the Marches. (This is the consequence of the poor peasant tradition according to which even he who did not owe land could afford a sheep. Going over others' pastures was officially accepted.) 

marchigiano (sheep cheese of Le Marches) was appreciated already in the ducal epoch and acknowledged as exceptionally delicious food. Today, it has become prestigious basic element in the local gastronomy (often PDO classified, as it happens with Casciotta di Urbino).

The great variety of different microclimates of the region and the diversity of its flora is concentrated in this product. Actually, each locality has its own quality of "pecorino", distinguished from others by procedures of preparation and ripening that, associated to the fodder eaten by sheep, result in a wide range of aromas.

In respect of the old recipes mastered by specific family traditions, pecorino made in the provinces of Pesaro, Ancona and Macerata - once salted - is scalded with whey in order to obtain colour and to postpone the ripening. 

(The same is done, for example, with "caciotta" in Montefeltro. It can be wrapped in nut leaves or immersed in wine and ripened in amphora.) Excellent cheese made on the Mounts Sibillini called "caglio" is prepared with a series of aromatic herbs (serene sky without wind and with waning moon is considered a good omen). The result is a particular, very tasty pecorino with compact white mass (typical for the territory of Amandola, Comunanza, Sarnano, Ussita and Visso).

In order to maintain its butter-like consistency, pecorino produced in Borgo Pace, after partial ripening, is kept in cold in old barrels, where it creates a light film of mould on its surface. This slows its ripening and adds exceptional flavour to cheese. On the other hand, olive oil is periodically spread on the surface of pecorino from Monte Rinaldo during its long ripening. This procedure colours the crust and renders it hard.

Formaggio di Fossa (known also as Ambra di Talamello, named after the locality of its origin in Valmarecchia) is a delicious pecorino ripened among the leaves of nuts in the dark caverns of tuff. Three months later, irregular forms characterised by traces of mould and superficial cracks are extracted.

The mass is light-coloured, friable and odorous, while the taste is piquant and slightly bitter. Limited quantities with distinctive taste produced in strict respect of an old local tradition make Formaggio di Fossa be requested cheese of exceptional quality.

The tradition of making cheese in this region includes an ancient game called la ruzzola. Once, ripened wheels of pecorino would roll through winding streets of the countryside. Although today cheese is preferably exposed on a kitchen table and left at disposal, the game "la ruzzola" is still played - with equally good wooden wheels. Therefore, while walking through the quiet streets that go up the hills, teams of players engaged in real tournaments are often met. And more than often, the tournament has its pleasant finish in a tavern, with - possibly - a good slice of cheese and a glass of excellent wine.


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