Have you ever heard of Maccheronici pasta, a specialty from the tiny yet beautiful town of Campofilone? If not, YOU HAVE TO get your hand on these babies! Life-changing yummy-ness and I assure you I am not exaggerating.
From the name "Maccheroncini", the first thing that pops up to your mind is probably "Maccheroni". However, Campofilone's Maccheroncini is something completely different!
It's a long and thin (they are to have a thickness of less than 0.7mm and a width of 1mm), angel-hair like egg pasta.
The origin of the pasta is said to be from the peasant's kitchen in Campofilone, dating way back to the 1400s! Usually egg pasta is made to be eaten fresh, instead, Maccheroncini became popular as a method to preserve a large number of fresh eggs. This way the people could enjoy egg pasta all year round, even in winter when eggs were scarce.
Maccheroncini is also the first egg pasta in Italy to be given the IGP certification, which means the product is legally guaranteed by the European Union that it is "authentic". It certifies that the product is linked to the place where it is produced, processed or prepared.
What's particular about Maccheroncini is that there is no added water (or salt). The ingredients are super simple, 10 eggs for every kilo of flour! That's it! And this goes also for the factory-made Maccheroncini as well, not just the ones the Italian Mammas make.
The flour also, is not just any flour but Semola di Grano Duro (Semolina in English if I am not mistaken) only! Semola flour has a more grainy texture which gives the pasta an unsmooth surface. This rough texture helps the pasta to entwine better with the sauce.
There is one tiny problem though. Maccheroncini is way longer than any regular long pasta, making it hard to mix with the sauce. Normal pots and pans are not going to help... Solution: a large wooden pastry board! You put the boiled pasta, followed immediately by the sauce and you mix the two there, not in the pan where the sauce was. And technically it's not simply "mixing" but you want to pull the pasta upwards which will avoid them of sticking to each other and being cut off.
The pictures were taken during the Sagra di Maccheroncini (Maccheronici Festival), held every year (2019 was there 56th!!) on the first weekend of August (starting from Friday and ending on Monday. Dinner time only!).
Campofilone is usually a quiet town but during the Sagra, it gets SUPER crowded! So have some patience (long ques for parking and ordering the food) because the food is worth the wait. The menu is very simple, Ragu Maccheroncini only!! Some fried food such as Olive Ascolane, crema fritta, and french fries, wine and beer of course and that's it! A big plate of Maccheroncini is 7.50 euro so I repeat, well worth the wait.
Last but not least, how to enjoy Maccheroncini at home!
The most traditional way to eat them is with ragu sauce. Here in Marche not only do we use ground pork and beef but also ground chicken and beef chuck as well when making ragu. Some Mammas might use duck meat too. If Mamma approves, I'll post her ragu recipe shortly but then again ONLY IF she approves, fingers crossed. Italians are very secretive about their family recipes...
Making ragu is a time-consuming job so it is not eaten frequently but some Sunday lunches or during the holidays, or any other occasions that call for a feast they are likely to show up.
Apart from a meaty ragu, Maccheroncini goes great with seafood-based sauces as well or my personal favorite "Maccheroncini Cacio e Pepe". I'm sure you understood by now that they go great with pretty much any kind of sauce except for Carbonara! Don't pair egg pasta with egg sauce, that's a big no-no.
To finish off this post, 2 important tips when cooking Maccheroncini.