Monday, May 25, 2020
Traditional recipes


Frascarelli is a poor dish of the Marche region tradition. We had already taken care of this when we talked about the gastronomic specialties of the province of Macerata, but today we will provide more in-depth knowledge of this typical dish

The frascarelli were one of the preparations that the “vergare” (the peasant matrons, who organized and managed all the domestic tasks) used to prepare coming home from the fields. The long days in the countryside, especially during the hardest work periods in the summer, required the commitment of the whole family (and when we say family, we do not mean the bourgeois family but the extended and proletarian one). Therefore, time was often lacking and the season did not allow the grandmothers to leave their homes or some women who only devoted themselves to the kitchen for the 20 or 30 people who appeared hungry at home. Yes, 20 or 30, because the children were many and the brothers with their offspring often remained under the same roof. Besides, they were produced especially for new mothers, since they said they favored the production of milk.

The origin of the frascarelli

Naturally, it is a dish whose roots are lost in history. Apparently, however, a common thread can be found in some Roman recipes.

The concept expressed in the following sentence of Marguerite Yourcenar in Memoirs of Hadrian can also be extended to the culinary: “Over separate nations and races, with their accidents of geography and history and the disparate demands of their ancestors or their gods, we should have superposed for ever a unity of human conduct and the empiricism of sober experience, but should have done so without destruction of what had preceded us. Rome would be perpetuating herself in the least of the towns where magistrates strive to demand just weight from the merchants, to clean and light the streets, to combat disorder, slackness, superstititon and injustice, and to give broader and fairer interpretation to the laws. She would endure to the end of the last city built by man.»

And it also lives in what we eat throughout the West.

The recipe of Apicius, the progenitor of frascarelli

Being a recipe based on wheat, it is indeed older than the food that most resembles it, namely corn polenta since the latter came to Europe only after the discovery of the Americas. We said Roman origins, and indeed the great gastronomist Apicius talks about Pultes and Pultes Oenococti, that were nothing but fracarelli with sapa.

Sapa is a cooked grape must sauce, and it was produced by putting on the fire a little must in a bowl with some nuts with shells. The walnuts during the boiling process move and this does not allow the must to stick to the pot. At the end of the process a very sugary “grape honey” is obtained (the quantity decreases by a third compared to the beginning of the process).

Returning to the frascarelli, in ancient times this type of polenta was even a ritual food but with the increasing use of bread became popular among the poor and in the countryside.

Of course, originally they were not accompanied by meat sauce (there was no tomato and meat was a luxury) and parmesan. The main seasoning, however, was the cooked must, as it was a custom among the Romans.

The origin of the name

The versions on the origin of the name are 2, but the meaning is always the same. Frascarelli could derive from ‘frasca,’ that is the branch, generally of laurel, which was used to drop the drops of water on the flour, those that would have created the typical lumps. The other origin is due to the three-pronged stick used to mix the polenta, also called ‘frasca.’

The original recipe of frascarelli

Over the years there have been countless versions of frascarelli. In some TV programs, even, they were made with egg pasta that they almost looked like gnocchi. In other versions, rice is used, which, however, does not belong to the Marche region and Macerata tradition. This type of frascarelli is called riso in polenta or riso corco (Marche style rice pasta).

As mentioned, however, as seasoning today it is mainly used the sauce with Parmesan, even if the versions are many. The original recipe, however, mainly had the cooked must.

As for the original seasoning with cooked must, in recent years the production of this type of liqueur (even if the term is improper since it is practically non-alcoholic) is reborn, especially in the Abruzzo region.

Today, the typical recipe is the one with the “fake” sauce (simple, with tomato sauce) or with the pork sauce. We will talk about the original recipe, the one without rice or egg dough. Of course, the versions can be endless because there were endless peasant ones, depending on the seasons and on what you had at home.

The ingredients to prepare the frascarelli for 4 people

  • 400 g of flour type 2 (in ancient times, in fact, the sharps was used)
  • 200 ml of water
  • Lard or extra virgin olive oil
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Tomato sauce
  • Pecorino cheese
  • Salt

The preparation

Begin by chopping the lard with onion, celery, garlic, carrot, etc. and brown it in an earthen pan. Immediately after, add the correct tomato sauce of salt and let it cook.

Grind the bacon with onion, carrot, celery, garlic, brown in an earthen pan and then add the tomato sauce, add salt and slowly cook.

To prepare the frascarelli spread the flour on a pastry-board and then drip large water droplets (this is the use of the ancient branch) to form small lumps to throw into the pot. We attach a video taken from the blog “ingredientperduto” to see the correct preparation

Immediately after, dip the frascarelli in boiling salted water and let them cook for 15 minutes, although much will depend on the size of the lumps. You do not have to drain them because the frascarelli must absorb the water taking the form of a lumpy polenta. Immediately after they are seasoned with sauce and cheese.

You have obtained the frascarelli de li puveretti or ppiccicasanti (the frascarelli of the poor or sticky frascarelli as they are sticky), an ancient recipe that we have presented in its purest and original form.


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This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Pierluigi Capriotti
My name is Pierluigi Capriotti to be exact. Despite a degree in Architecture I'm a journalist. I write following temporary monomania and others that are chronic such reading, soccer, travels and food. When I write I use many asides – because I have the impression there is always something more to say. Because in those asides I talk about my passions. So that everybody will notice them but with nonchalance. I've never had a high regard for wisdom. And, thanks God, this helped me to leave for the foodiestrip journey with a spiritual-creative mathematician, an IT engineer who plays the Star Wars soundtrack with the coffee stirrers and a businessnerd. One way ticket. No return.