Fritto misto: the famous fried foods of Le Marche

Fritto misto: the famous deep-fried foods of Marche

by Luciana Squadrilli 22 May 2018

Luciana Squadrilli introduces us to the four most famous breaded, battered and fried foods found in Marche which make up the region’s popular fritto misto.

Born in Naples but currently living in Rome, Luciana Squadrilli is a freelance journalist and author specialising in food and travel writing. She is a regular contributor to Identità Golose, Via dei Gourmet, Gazza Golosa, I Cento Roma, Flos Olei, Olive Oil Times and Hi-Europe Magazine, and when she's not travelling or discovering culinary delights, she indulges her personal passions: pizza, extra virgin olive oil and the desert.

Marche, the beautiful and often underrated region of central Italy facing the Adriatic Sea, has a rich culinary heritage embracing both seafood and meat, with plenty of local specialities. A precious common denominator of the whole regional landscape, though, is the olive tree. Its fruits – both the olives and the exquisite extra virgin olive oils, especially those made from the native variety called Ascolana – play an essential role in local cuisine, which in turns leads to an unconditional, widespread love for fried food in the region.

The fritto misto – mixed fried platter – is a true local institution and there is even an eponymous annual event totally dedicated to the art of frying. Travelling through the region, one can easily smell the pleasant aroma of good quality olive oil heated up to fry almost everything, most famously the delicious stuffed olives. My suggestion is to follow your nose and try everything that comes to the table out of the frying pan – particularly these four favourites!

Olives all'Ascolana (stuffed olives)

Ascolana Tenera is a dual-purpose olive variety, meaning it can be both to be pressed for making olive oil and brined for eating. Huge and pulpy, the green brined olives are often made into a great local recipe: olive ascolane (or all’ascolana). They are pitted, opened into a spiral and stuffed with a flavourful mix of mixed minced meat (stewed with white wine and fresh herbs), nutmeg, egg yolks and grated Parmesan cheese, sometimes with added lemon zest and cloves. Once stuffed and put back together – a skilful operation, traditionally carried out by women – the olives are rolled in flour, then in beaten egg and finally in breadcrumbs before being deep-fried in extra virgin olive oil. Served piping hot – maybe with a lemon slice to sprinkle some juice over them – olive all’ascolana are usually eaten as a delicious starter or as part of an antipasti platter. They are PDO-protected, and most associated with the city of Ascoli Piceno.

Verdure fritte (fried vegetables)

The traditional fritto misto Marchigiano – a mixed platter of fried bites – almost always includes deep-fried vegetables. Cut into pieces, they are usually rolled in the flour and then dredged in beaten eggs, but also appear breaded or battered. The season dictates which vegetables are used; rings of bell pepper, sticks of courgette, wedges of artichoke, chunks of aubergine and courgette flowers are the most common.

Agnello panato (breaded lamb cutlets)

Usually served alongside the fried vegetables in the fritto misto platter, another must-try local speciality is lamb cutlets. The secret of their flavour lies in the tender meat, which is coated in a mixture of beaten eggs and grated Parmesan cheese before being rolled in breadcrumbs, and of course in the high-quality extra virgin olive oil (or peanut oil) used to deep-fry them.

Crema fritta (fried cream)

To add an irresistibly sweet touch to their luxurious fritto misto, people in Marche also fry cream. A mixture of sugar, flour, beaten eggs and milk is brought to the boil and cooked for approximately thirty minutes, with a spoonful of grated lemon zest added for flavour alongside butter. Once the mixture thickens, it is spread over the countertop or in a tray and left to cool down and firm up. Cut into squares or diamonds, it’s then rolled flour, then in beaten eggs and finally in breadcrumbs before being deep-fried. The heavenly bites are served as an appetizer, as part of the fritto misto platter or as a dessert.