The regions of Lazio, Le Marche, Umbria and Tuscany make up central Italy. Having written a little about both Roman and Florentine specialties, it is time to explore the culinary traditions of the remaining central regions of the peninsula, a countryside of by-gone Etruscan settlements. The rich soil and warm temperatures have always provided a plethora of ingredients, from grains and cereals, to vegetables and legumes, to abundant meat, game and seafood. It offers up a bouquet for the senses, of mint and rosemary, artichokes and fresh figs, wild fennel and pungent mushrooms. Many of these delicious foods are prepared in much the same way as they were during the Etruscan period. Sample the crusty, savory porchetta of Umbria or a perfectly cooked roast pork loin, known as Arista.
It is believed that Etruscans were among the first people to make and use pasta in many of their dishes. Barley soup was and still remains a popular staple Etruscan dish among the locals, packed with lentils, chickpeas and Fava beans. Thanks to huge herds of cattle, flocks of sheep and goats, there is an array of dairy products, from mild ricotta to tangy aged pecorino. Etruscans were the first to cultivate olive oil on an industrial scale and export it across the Mediterranean and to surrounding countries. Not surprisingly, it is used generously in the cuisine of the region, enhancing and tying together the tastes of land and sea.
The Marche lies along the Adriatic Sea and its cuisine has been greatly influenced by its neighbors, particularly Emilia Romagna, notably in their shared love for fresh egg pasta. Vincigrassi, a favorite dish, is a baked lasagna-type pasta stuffed with chicken livers, while minestra di trippa is a soup made with tripe and served with battuto, lard pounded together with herbs. Verdicchio, a well known Marchese white wine, goes well with their many fish entrees, and to finish off a meal here, there is nothing like its Anisetta, an aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.