The food and wine of Italy’s Marche’ (pronounced MAR–kay) region is a whimsical mix of farm, field and sea. A province in Northern Italy whose name refers to a march or mark (a border region similar to a frontier), the Marche’ extends along the coastline of the Adriatic reaching into the mountainous and hilly interior of the Apennines. Because of its unique climate, history and scenery the Marche’ is a wonderland for the imaginative traveler and adventurous eater.
There are steamy fish soups and a brodetto, a fish stew made with 13 species of fish. Spaghetti Con Vongole, thin spaghetti cooked al dente, that has soaked up the delicate flavor of baby clams (vongole) and vincisgrassi, a type of lasagna which is made up of 15 layers of pasta.
And as the March Hare is the Mad Hatter’s best friend in the Wonderland of Alice, lepre or wild hare is widely popular as a main course on the tables of Marche’ where it is often served cacciatora style, marinated and slow cooked in wine with onions, carrots, celery, parsley and in this case a piece of cinnamon or a touch of nutmeg .
Italians like lepre preparing it potted, roasted and sauced. They have been making it since the time of Artusi (1891) when in his self-published cookbook “la scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene” (the Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) he offered a recipe for Pasticcio di Lepre (hare pie).
The first time I ate lepre was in Tuscany, Marche’s neighbor, where they like to pair it with pappardelle or polenta and the typical recipes for the Marche’ hare follow suit. They also like to prepare coniglio, lepre’s distant relative. Although both are furry and have long ears, the red meat of a hare is different from the white meat of a rabbit (coniglio); slightly stronger and gamier with a definite point of view as you would expect from a Marche’ Hare at the table in Wonderland.