Today I want to translate a local recipe from my region. It’s called maccheroncini al fumè, and it was invented in 1978 by chef Stefano Marzi (a.k.a. Chef Maciste, in reference to his side career as a bodybuilder).
What makes it instantly recognizable is its distinctive fumè sauce, which is made with smoked pancetta, tomato sauce, melted cheeses, and spices.
If you’ve never tried it before, this is your wake-up call.
Chef Stefano has been making this dish for decades with his wife and son at “Mac Iste’s”, their restaurant in the province of Ancona. The recipe quickly spread throughout the region, and although some ingredients are kept secret by the chef, it is now a regular meal in many households, mine included.
My grandma and aunt make it at least once every month for our Sunday family gatherings (we have a special rotation for those). And for many years, it has been my first choice when cooking for friends and guests, or when I had to make lunch for my siblings who were still going to school.
Of course, everyone has their personal fumè sauce recipe now. However, I thought it would be nice to translate the one shared by its creator.
Here it is.
Sedanini pasta: or, if you don’t have it, penne pasta.The only important is that it be ridged: it will hold the sauce better.
Smoked pancetta: the meat base for the sauce.
Tomato puree: to simmer with the meat for at least 10 minutes.
Fresh liquid cooking cream: to tone down the acidity of the tomatoes and make the sauce creamier.
Emmentaler cheese: if you can’t find it, try with Fontina, or look for a stringy hard cheese made from cow’s milk and aged for at least 8 months.
Caciottina cheese: a soft, mild cheese.
Grated parmesan cheese: will add a pleasant nutty flavor to your fumè sauce.
Extra virgin olive oil: to sautee the pancetta. Usually, when I cook pancetta at home, I don’t use oil or butter. I put the meat directly into the saucepan with a trickle of water, and cook it over very low heat until the fat melts. When the water has evaporated, there will be enough melted fat to oil the saucepan without any other ingredients. However, the chef says to use oil this time, so I’ll stick to that.
Fine salt: for seasoning.
Rumor has it that the original recipe for smoked macaroni has 7 spices, but the chef revealed only 4: dried chili, nutmeg, coriander powder and black pepper. We’ll make do with them.
Step 1: Dice the pancetta, caciotta and emmentaler. Then grate the parmesan, and mix all the cheeses in a little bowl.
Step 2: Fill a large pot with 3/4 water, and bring it to a boil.
Step 3: In the meantime, take a medium saucepan, add a drizzle of olive oil, and toss in the diced pancetta. Add the spice mix too, and let the meat brown for a few minutes.
Step 4: Now add the tomato sauce to the pot with the meat, stir well, and let it simmer for at least 10 minutes.
Step 5: When the water boils, salt it and add the pasta, then cook it al dente. That means about 2 minutes less than the total cooking time reported on the packing instructions.
Step 6: In the meantime, the meat and tomato sauce will have simmered long enough. Add half of the cheese mix and the liquid cooking cream, then still well.
Step 7: When the pasta is ready, drain it with a small strainer or a slotted spoon, and add it to the sauce pot.
Step 8: Add the remaining cheese and stir well.
Your maccheroncini al fumè are ready. You can serve them immediately along with a medium-bodied red wine.
Pssst: there’s no better thing in the world than to clean the sauce from a dish of fumè with a loaf of bread. We call it “fare la scarpetta.” It is considered rude by high-end people, but all the chefs I know secretly like to see it, as it means that their sauce was good. And in your kitchen, nobody can hear you dunk bread in meat sauce. You didn’t learn it from me though. 😉
What to serve this with
This recipe could be considered a one-dish meal, as it has carbohydrates, protein, veggies and herbs. If you are making this for a weeknight dinner, you probably don’t need anything else. But if you’re hosting a dinner party, or cooking for a gathering with friends and family, here are some things you can pair it with.
Meat: I would go with meat skewers. Alternatively, try roast beef or chicken slices.
Salad: make an easy caprese salad while the other dishes are cooking.
Dessert: in my opinion, the best thing would be to serve cantucci cookies with shots of vino cotto. This is a very common type of dessert in the Marche region – and probably the most typical in my area. However, these products might be hard to find in your local grocery stores. If you don’t want to complicate your life, an easy ricotta dessert will do just fine.
Coffee and Varnelli: This is a very common way to end a Sunday lunch here in Le Marche. Serve espresso cups to anyone, then leave a bottle of Varnelli liqueur on the table. Those who wish can use it to “correct” their coffee. This custom led to the creation of another very typical drink called Cazolà (“the Shoemaker”). I’ll write a recipe for it tomorrow!
Maccheroncini al fumè is a simple and creamy recipe, perfect for both one-meal dinners and larger events. Have fun making it at home, and let me know how it came out in the comments!Print