Autumn is one of the seasons I love the most. I am among those people who is still fascinated by nature as it prepares to put on new colors, dressing itself in warm and intense hues. I love the shorter days and falling temperatures. Time passes more slowly, as if inviting us to experience emotions in a deeper and more authentic way, preparing us for Christmas season. It is a shame not to take advantage of the warm sunny days. We can stroll and enjoy the wonderful panorama that surrounds us. Intense fragrances waft through the air and gives life to fairs and markets throughout the country. One of these strolls brought me to the National White Truffle Fair of Acqualagna (Fiera Nazionale del Tartugo Biano di Acqualagna).
This beautiful town in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, in the heart of the Marche region. I was attracted by the architectural and natural beauty of the area and by the gold of this land: the truffle.
Much loved all over the world, the precious tuber is an asset of considerable importance for the tourist and economic development of the entire region. Acqualagna is the named the Capital of Truffle. Here, the wealth of truffles is linked to the climate and territory. The town, in fact, is home to two-thirds of the national production of truffles. It is a protagonist not only in commercial activities or restaurant kitchens but also in the eponymous fair. This year was the 57th edition of the National White Truffle Fair of Acqualagna. Held every year between late October to early November, food lovers from all over Italy gather here to celebrate the excellence of the truffle through conferences, presentations, sector events, and tastings.
Of course, I was there too, as I never miss an opportunity to combine a visit to an enchanting area with a delicious gastronomic appointment. Acqualagna lies inland in the Marche region, between the Catria and Nerone mountains. It is surrounded by places of rare natural beauty such as the Furlo State Nature Reserve — an area with unique biodiversity and breathtaking scenery. We are along the ancient Via Flaminia where the Roman emperor Vespasian had a tunnel built to make the passage through the Apennine mountains and the connection between Rome and the Adriatic easier. An evocative, picturesque, and wild passage takes us to the village of Acqualagna.
Piazza Enrico Mattei
Strolling through the characteristic town center, one immediately breathes in the festive air. Shopkeepers and restaurateurs are in turmoil and the unmistakable scent of truffles seems to mark an olfactory path that guides you to Piazza Enrico Mattei. The piazza lies in the heart of the town and is the true soul of the event. Here I find the truffle stands and other local specialties. The offer is so numerous and varied that it is difficult to select the products to taste. So, I opted to taste them all discovering with pleasure, that in addition to the truffle, there are many typical products of excellent quality.
Some examples are Carpegna ham, Casciotta di Urbino, Cartoceto olive oil, as well as fine wines such as Bianchello del Metauro, Colli Pesaresi or Pergola. Among the many realities I got to know, I also found an excellent craft beer produced with the pure waters of Monte Catria, and the delicious sour cherries of Cantiano. This small village in the area was unfortunately hit recently by a terrible flood that brought its economy and serenity to its knees.
The mayor of Acqualagna Luca Lisi expressed his sorrow for the calamity and assured a f air under the banner of solidarity towards those who are in fact neighbors in need of help. Continuing my tour of the square, I discovered a museum dedicated to the truffle, which uses digital technology and virtual reality to interactively narrate the truffle universe and the birthplace of Enrico Mattei. Acqualagna’s most illustrious citizen was an important entrepreneur as well as the founder of Eni. The square is dedicated to him and the citizens affectionately remember him for numerous initiatives on the 60th anniversary of his death.
There is a lot to see in just a few meters, and the fair’s program is vast. It encompassed workshops for adults and children, cultural shows, itineraries, and exhibitions. All was accompanied by live music as the soundtrack to a rich and concentrated event. There were also many chefs that I had the pleasure of meeting in what is known as the ‘Salotto da Gustare’. Here there is a welcoming location dedicated to cooking shows and culinary performances of the highest level. Among the guests were the chefs of Gambero Rosso channel Max Mariola and Giorgione, Michelin Stars Errico Recanati, Nikita Sergeev, Richard Abou Zaki, Pierpaolo Ferracuti, and the talented chefs Antonio Ciotola, Federico Delmonte and Mattia Poggi.
Chef Gennaro Esposito
Chef Gennaro Esposito, two Michelin Stars, was awarded on the inaugural evening with the Ruscella d’oro, the most prestigious award of the city of truffles. It is reserved for chefs of undisputed value who have been able to enhance this precious product of the territory. Chef Esposito proposed for the occasion an iconic dish of his cuisine: scampi, red prawns and truffle. His original recipe was delicate and persuasive and to me, deserved award just the event’s success deserved one. The whole event is an innovative fair with an elegant format and great organizational capacity. The fair gives confidence to the trade fair system which invests every year despite the economic difficulties. It also leaves plenty of room for solidarity towards the neighboring municipalities affected by the floods.
This experience had a strong impact on me. I spent a few pleasant weekend walking around this impressive small village that knows how to bring out the best in its products. There was an opportunity to get to know authentic flavors and passionate chefs. I discovered a rich gastronomy that fully reflects the peculiarities of this territory that is as unique as it is varied. And then, got to know a community that always looks ahead, not forgetting those who remain behind. I saw a silent place that has much to say, like the stillness of the forest, the sighs, the days made of wind and delicacy, and the leaves that drop slowly. Just like autumn.
Pasta candies with duck, cheese fondue, truffle, and sour cherries
This dish is inspired by the National White Truffle Fair of Acqualagna. I dedicate it to the typical products of this territory and the areas affected by the flooding. I send to our readers a warm embrace and best wishes for a Merry Christmas.
- Flour 00 250 gr
- Eggs 2
- Yolks 1
- Duck breast 200 g
- Celery 30 g
- Carrot 30 g
- Onion 30 g
- Red wine 30 ml
- Broth 200 ml
- Grana padano 50 gr
- Eggs 1
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
For the fondue:
- Milk 400 ml
- Butter 40 gr
- Flour 0 40 gr
- Casciotta d’Urbino 100 gr
- Nutmeg to taste
- Black truffle to taste
- Black cherry syrup to taste
- Cantiano black cherries to taste
- Prepare the egg pasta. Pour the flour into a bowl, add the eggs and knead.
- When the eggs are absorbed, continue on a work surface and knead the dough until smooth and elastic
- Once ready, give it a spherical shape, wrap with plastic wrap and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the filling, cut the duck into pieces
- In a pan, brown the duck with butter, the diced vegetables and thyme.
- Deglaze with the wine, add the stock and cook for 10 minutes
- Once cooked, mince the meat, add the egg and Parmesan cheese and mix until the mixture becomes firm
- Season with salt and pepper
- Roll out the egg pasta into a very thin sheet, which you cut into rectangles
- In the center of each rectangle of pasta, place a scant teaspoon of filling and wrap the sheet around the filling
- Now shape your caramels by pinching the leftover flap
- Now prepare the fondue: in a saucepan melt the butter, add the flour and stir over a low flame
- Incorporate the previously heated milk a little at a time while keeping the flame low
- Complete with grated Casciotta d’Urbino, nutmeg and a pinch of salt, stir very well until it comes to the boil
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for at least 5 minutes
- Drain and toss with melted butter and rosemary
- On the bottom of the plate, add a ladleful of fondue, then the pasta candies
- Finish the dish with black truffle shavings, a drizzle of sour cherry syrup and a few sour cherries to decorate