Food and Wine

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Montemonaco and the tradition of mountain cheese

Montemonaco is the highest municipality in the Piceno area, and it is one of the most renowned production areas for the excellent Sibillini pecorino.

The Piceno traditions of transhumance and ewe’s-milk cheese manufacturing are both very ancient. A wide variety of cheeses of varying degrees of ageing are made using ewe’s milk.

One variety, known as Pecorino dei Sibillini, is a semi-cooked, aged pecorino made using unpasteurized milk and traditional methods which is protected under the aegis of the Slow Food association. The method of production is thousands of years old andhas remained practically unaltered throughout time, still following lunar cycles.

Straight after milking, the milk is poured into a copper vat and heated to around 38 °C. Rennet is added , followed by a mix of herbs including wild thyme, marjoram, basil and others, varying according to tradition, then secret blends of herbs, whose recipes are jealously guarded by the producers. The mixture is allowed to sit for approximately half an hour, and then it is heated again by raising the heat under the vat. It is then placed in the moulds ready for pressing after which the cheese is dry-salted for a couple of days, then washed, dried and allowed to ripen in a cool, slightly damp environment.

The cheese is ready to sample after one month, at which stage it is known as “barzotto”, but it is preferable to wait two months to consume it.

Lovers of authentic Sibillini pecorino will not find it in the usual outlets and supermarkets but must seek it on the farmsteads and lanes of mountain hamlets like Montegallo, Montemonaco and Arquata del Tronto, where the genuine product survives thanks to enthusiastic producers who still rear rare local sopravvissane sheep, and use traditional cheese-making methods.

Alongside this rigorously traditional type of sheep cheese, other types that are semi-cooked, and therefore sweeter, are also produced in the Piceno area.

These varieties of cheese are more widely known than the purer types of pecorino, and they are frequently used in the preparation of baked cheese-based dishes that are typical of the mountains, such as “pizza al formaggio”,a savoury Easter pie usually accompanied by hard-boiled eggs and ciauscolo salami, and piconi (also known as picù or caciuni, depending on where they are made), special cheese ravioli.


Piceno recipes

“Pizza al formaggio” recipe

cheese pizza recipe montemonacoIngredients

500g of bread dough; 250g of fresh pecorino cheese in slivers; 200g grated pecorino cheese; 50g brewer’s yeast; 8 eggs; 2 glasses of warm milk; extra virgin olive oil; flour; salt; fresh ground pepper.


Soak half the brewer’s yeast in half the milk and make up a bread dough. Cover the dough and leave to rise. Add the remaining brewer’s yeast, milk, oil and gradually add the beaten eggs, grated pecorino and, lastly, tghe slivers of cheese. Add salt and pepper, then knead the dough for at least an hour on awork ssurface, the adding flour. Place the dough into a tall, round baking tin. Cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours. Brush with egg yolk and bake at 180 °C for at least an hour and a half.


Travel tips


Agriturismo Le Castellare

Contrada Colleregnone, 1, 0736856270 ;;


Agriturismo – La Cittadella dei Sibillini

Località Cittadella; 0736.856361,,


Eating out

Locanda della Trota

Località Pignotti, 3; 0736856112


Locanda di Ulisse

Contrada Vallefiume; 0736856214;
Ristorante La Scampagnata

Via Don Settimio Vallorani; 0736 856392;


What to see

Museo Sistino di arte sacra, Via Italia

Christmas – Easter – Summer    Scheduled opening

Entrance fee   €1.00


Museo della Grotta della Sibilla, Villa Curi, Via Roma

July – August   10 am–12.30 pm; 4.30 pm–7 pm (July: Tues–Sun; August: Mon–Sun)

Entrance fee    Free of charge


Centro di Educazione Ambientale Sibilla, Villa Curi, Via Roma



What to buy

Forno Buratti Franco – typical confectionery and bakery products

Via Barbieri, 9; 0736 856288


Antognozzi Alberto – pink apples

Località Cittadella;


Corbelli Raffaele Pietro – pink apples

Via Roma; 0736856207



Non chiamatelo scorzone

6-10 August


Montemonaco and the tradition of mountain cheese

Montemonaco, AP, Italia