Cooking Le Marche Style: In Potacchio

Vongole in Potacchio
Vongole in Potacchio
Potacchio refers to a traditional style of cooking originating from Le Marche, which involves tomato, garlic, white wine and rosemary.  Variations in the region include the additions of onions and in some cases, potatoes and can be used to prepare everything from chicken to fish to vegetables.  Part of our Italian family originated from this region and as I write this article, my brother is staying in the little village of Scapezzano in the very house where my grandfather was born.  
We are still quite close to the remaining family there and when I visited about 2 years ago, the view from the little village took my breath away.  Gentle green rolling hills set to a backdrop of a sparkling baby blue sea.   When we arrived in Scapezzano, hugs and tears were exchanged as chairs were quickly pulled to the table; local wine was uncorked; and a feast fit for a king was unfurled.  Conversation, even in our worst Italian, never stopped and I felt as if I had perhaps always been at this table, even though separated by an ocean. So today wishing I too were in Le Marche with my brother, I decided to make this preparation from Le Marche which I find myself turning to time and time again.  Its an incredibly simple preparation that lends itself to quick weeknight meals and surprise company. Once you have the ingredients down, you can give this a go on almost whatever meat, fish, or vegetable you may have on hand.   Tonight I used beautiful fresh clams from the fishmonger; last week I changed things up a bit and used the ingredients to make a roasted chicken.  
As I served dinner this evening, I too felt as if I were around that family table in Scapezzano. Buon appetito! 
Vongole in PotacchioVongole in Potacchio
Vongole in Potacchio 
Serves 4
◼About 2 dozen littleneck clams
◼4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
◼3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed, divided
◼About 1 1/2 cups dry white wine, divided
◼1 teaspoon tomato paste
◼1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
◼Freshly ground black pepper
◼Crusty bread
Soak the clams in cool water for about 20 minutes. Change the water a few times to remove as much sand as possible from the fresh clams.  Drain.
In a pan large enough to accommodate the clams, slowly heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with a clove of smashed garlic.  Add in ½ cup of white wine and the clams.  Cover and simmer over medium heat until the clams open, about 7 minutes.  Discard any clams that do not open.  Transfer the clams to a bowl.  Pour the cooking liquid through a paper towel or cheesecloth into a small bowl.  Wipe pan.
In same pan over medium-low heat, add the remaining olive oil and garlic, any reserved cooking liquid and about 1 cup of wine. (Don’t be afraid – it is ok to add more if you want additional liquid.)  Stir in the tomato paste until dissolved. Add the sprigs of rosemary and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the clams back in to the pot and simmer until warmed through. Serve with plenty of toasted bread to sop up all the delicious juices. Buon appetito!
Pollo Arrosto in Potacchio
Serves 4
◼1 (3-4 pound) chicken
◼Kosher salt
◼Freshly ground black pepper
◼¼ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
◼1 medium onion
◼A few sprigs fresh rosemary
◼4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
◼½ cup dry white wine
◼½ cup fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Wash and trim the chicken.  Dry using paper towels. Season with salt and black pepper inside the cavity and outside. Drizzle a baking dish, large enough to accommodate the chicken, with olive oil.  Place the chicken in the baking dish. Drizzle all over with olive oil. 
Cut the onion, end to end, into wedges. Toss the onion into the dish around the chicken along with the sprigs of fresh rosemary and garlic.  Pour in the wine and chopped tomatoes.  Drizzle the whole thing with more olive oil.
Place the chicken in the oven and roast until done. Be sure to baste it with the cooking liquid occasionally to help caramelize the veggies and coat the chicken.  Roast the chicken until the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked. This should take about 1 hour and 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of your chicken.  Remove from the oven.  Let the bird rest for about 10 minutes to allow all those wonderful juices to absorb.  Serve and enjoy!
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog

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