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The vincisgrassi or vincesgrassi or swincisgrassi are a typical first course, considered one of the emblems of the Marche’s cuisine.
Based on the same recipe, the history of gastronomy attests to several variants, among which stand out the vincisgrassi alla maceratese (for which the procedure was initiated for the Stg mark).
It is necessary to roll out a sheet of egg pasta, cut it into rectangular pieces, which must be boiled and dried on a cloth; each component must then be placed in a baking pan, putting between one layer and another a particular meat sauce and béchamel sauce, which must also be put on top. Everything is then put in the oven and withdrawn when the first layer has become crispy. This is a traditional dish, prepared in the past on holidays.
Vincisgrassi is a baked pasta, similar to lasagna, typical of the Marche region. The differences with lasagna consist of meat sauce, prepared with coarsely chopped meat and not minced, and in the béchamel sauce, firmer, which gives the dish greater compactness. Moreover, the presence of spices (cloves and nutmeg) must be more noticeable.
It is a first course traditionally seasoned with meat sauce and béchamel sauce. In traditional recipes such as “vincisgrassi alla maceratese,” chicken giblets are also present. In the dough of lasagne can be added Marsala or vino cotto.
Origin: Siege of Ancona in 1799
According to a tradition, the dish’s name derives from the fact that a cook from Ancona prepared it in honor of the Austrian general Alfred von Windisch-Graetz who fought and won the siege of Ancona in 1799 against the Napoleonic troops closed in the city. The general would have appreciated the dish, which was dedicated to him through a simplification and Italianization (from the general’s name would derive the term “vincisgrassi”). The tradition does not specify if the dish was invented in honor of the general or a dish already known.
Siege of Ancona in 1849
A recent hypothesis, considering that, for personal reasons, the general von Windisch-Graetz could not be present at the siege of Ancona in 1799, moves about fifty years later the birth of vincisgrassi, or in 1849, always in Ancona and still during a siege. In that year, the Austrians had once again besieged the city, which had joined the Roman Republic and had become an outpost of the Risorgimento. After the Austrian victory, the city returned to the Pope. The corps of Windisch-Graetz’s Bohemian Dragoons, or their general Alfred von Windisch-Graetz in person who may have participated in the siege, had the honor of being given the recipe in question, taken from the tradition reported in the book above of recipes from Macerata by Antonio Nebbia, but modified and added with béchamel.
“Il cuoco maceratese” of 1776
However, among the recipes reported in “Il Cuoco maceratese” by Antonio Nebbia since the first editions (1776) appears with a slightly different name, a much more decadent recipe, “lasagna in princisgrass.” The formula described in the book foresees the use of truffles. Therefore, it is different from that of today’s vincisgrassi, which are also different because they also include béchamel sauce and chicken giblets not present in Nebbia’s recipe.
How to make Vincisgrassi
“Take half a pound of persciutto, dice it into small cubes, with four ounces of finely sliced truffles; then take a leaf and a half of milk, dilute it in a cazzarola with three ounces of flour, put it in a stove with persciutto and truffles, always stirring until it begins to boil, and it must boil for half an hour; from then you will put half a pound of fresh bread, mixing everything to make it unite together; from then you make a pearl of tagliolini with two eggplants and four red ones inside; roll it out not so thin and cut it to the use of mostaccioli of Naples, not so wide; cook them with half of broth and half of water, adjusted with salt; take the dish that you must send to the table: You can make around the plate a border of fried pasta to keep the sauce in the plate, so that it does not come out when you put it in the oven, while it should take a little brulì; When you have cooked the lasagne, remove them and wrap them in parmesan cheese and place them in the aforementioned dish, with one layer of sauce, butter and cheese and the other layer of lasagne spread out and placed on a flat surface, and you will do this until you have finished filling the said dish; it should be noted that the sauce must be finished with butter and parmesan cheese and when finished, place it in the oven so that it takes on its brilliance. ..»
(Antonio Nebbia, Il cuoco maceratese, 1781)
Vincisgrassi had a widespread diffusion in the trattorias and restaurants of the region, becoming one of the gastronomic flags of the Marches for foreign visitors and tourists; among them Orson Welles, who in 1952 appreciated them in a restaurant in Ancona in the twentieth century.
In every area of the Marche region and according to the seasons, historically different ingredients are used, which contributes to the dish’s identity value.
Regional Recipe from the Marches