Lukas Pfaff, head chef at Sartoria, is set to evoke tradition with a new menu for the month of February that celebrates authentic food from the lesser-known central Italian region of Marche. A starring dish on Lukas’s new menu is a version of olive ascolane: large olives from Ascoli in Italy, with the stone removed and stuffed with pork, beef and veal, breaded and deep-fried. “Olive ascolane is the most famous dish from the Marche region; it’s served everywhere,” says Lukas. “Usually, elderly Italian women cook the dish at home and sell it at their local market in paper-cone cups. It’s a very special dish that has a lot of history.”Sure, fried food may not be the healthiest alternative on a menu, but when it’s rooted in tradition, like Lukas’s new menu, The Artful Diner believes it’s ok to treat yourself.For the love of fried foodFried food is so prevalent in the rugged region of Marche that local Italians established a festival to celebrate the glorious tastes of batter-rich, deep-fried food, known as the Fritto Misto festival. The nine-day event features a feast of deep-fried dishes, including the quintessential olive ascolane, and usually takes place in spring.Another fried favourite on menus in the region, particularly on the coastal side of Marche (near Ancona), is fried fish. “The food of Marche is very rustic,” says Lukas. “It was originally quite a poor region, so fried dishes are popular. Scarafolata (deep-fried lemon and rum fritters) are also typical of Marche and are traditionally served around Carnevale time in February.”The traditions exposedFrom precious black truffles and dried fruit sausages to strong, salty cheese matured in caves, the Marche region boasts an intriguing food culture that is steeped in tradition. Similar to Sicily, Marche features a lot of unique flavour combinations, for example savoury salads with citrus fruits, while local chefs and at-home cooks love cooking with meat. Pork is popular and it’s a typical affair for Italians to dine out at their local trattoria and gorge on a platter of pork ribs, beef and chicken.“People from Marche cook their pork with a homemade sweet wine, called vincotto,” explains Lukas. “The wine provides an extra depth to the flavour of the dish. Formaggio di fossa, the cheese matured underground in caves, is also very typical to the region. You add a tablespoon to a creamy sauce and it adds a great kick-start!”Further informationOlive ascolane, scarafolata and vincotto-lacquered pork belly are available on Lukas’s regional set menu during the month of February. Visit Sartoria’s website to find out more.If you can’t wait that long, try recreating Lukas’s olive ascolane dish at home. See the recipe here.
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