There is a saying that he who eats pesto never leaves Genoa, the stronghold of this delicious sauce, rich with the flavors of fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese. Traditionally, the ingredients are put in a mortar and pounded with a pestle until a smooth sauce emerges. Pesto is popular throughout the world, but small-leafed Ligurian basil, grown in herb gardens buffeted by sea breezes, is arguably the best in the world.
True Ligurian focaccia is not the pizza-like bread we enjoy here in America. As Liguria’s salty air and humidity makes it difficult to bake good bread and keep it from spoiling quickly, the Ligurians devised a bread that can be eaten hot out of the oven. This unleavened, thin, flat bread is usually topped with olive oil and salt, and in some areas, sage, cheese or onions.
Did the Ligurians bring pasta to Italy, as they still claim today? Whether it’s true or not, they have created several delightful types that are local specialties. Pansotti are a triangle-shaped ravioli-style pasta, stuffed with a mixture of vegetables (such as swiss chard, borage, and endive) and ricotta cheese, and are often served with salsa di noci, a walnut sauce.
Trenette, made from whole wheat flour, come in long, flat strips, either fresh or dried, and like trofie, a spiral-shaped gnocchi, are served with a sauce made from boiled beans, potatoes, and pesto.
The Cinque Terre seas are an unequaled habitat for many species of fish. Fishing is done by lampare (night trawling with lamps), along the sea beds near Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The smell of anchovies is quite unique and the variety of shiny silvery greys is unmistakable. The women set up their stalls in the squares and sell the fish, surrounded by lively chatter, the catch prize being a mormora, an orata or one of the types of ink fish (itiani and calamari).
The market often boasts baskets of prawns, caught or fished off the Ligurian coast. Throughout the years local restaurants have become famous for their fish and specialties, but traditional recipes have never been forgotten and are always part of the menu. Mussels (le cozze) are always on the menu too: alla marinara – boiled and dressed with a few drops of lemon juice and a sprig of parsley – or stuffed with tuna fish, cheese, mortadella, egg and marjoram. The latter takes lot of patience because each uncooked mussel has to be opened individually.
Typical food from Liguria include:
Buridda: Genoese soup of various fish in a stock with plenty of garlic, anchovy, tomato.
Capponada: the poor man’s cappon magro includes biscuits and mainly preserved fish.
Ciuppin: the humblest of fish stewed with tomato, garlic, onions, white wine and eaten as soup thickened with stale bread.
Coniglio alla carlona: rabbit braised in white wine with black olives, pine nuts, capers, herbs.
Mes-ciua: chick-peas, beans, farro and olive oil blend in an antique soup of La Spezia.
Pansouti con la salsa di noci: pasta envelopes filled with ricotta and the Preboggion bouquet of herbs, topped with walnut sauce and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Sbira or sbirra: tripe with tomatoes, potatoes and herbs served over slabs of toasted bread with Parmigiano Reggiano, eaten by Genoa’s stevedores and Sbirri (cops) after a day’s work.
Siluri: torpedoes, the nickname for totani or flying squid, stuffed with cheese, breadcrumbs and garlic and stewed with wine and tomatoes.
Stecchi fritti: wooden skewers of various pieces of veal coated with thick batter that includes artichokes, mushrooms and grated cheese and fried in olive oil.
Stocchefisce accomodou: dried cod cooked with pine nuts, olives, mushrooms, potatoes, vegetables, herbs and anchovies, in white wine and tomato sauce.
Tomaxelle: veal rolls with a filling of mushrooms, pine nuts, breadcrumbs and eggs braised in tomato sauce.
Amaretti Almond Cookies
Baked mushrooms and potatoes
Cappon magro Ligurian Seafood Caponata
Castagnaccio Chestnut Crust
Cima alla genovese Stuffed Flank Steak Genoa Style
Condiggion Sea Biscuits with Smoked Fish Salad
Dory with olives and potatoes
Gianchetti all’agro The miniature fish served raw or poached with lemon, oil, parsley.
Lumache alla ligure Snails Ligurian Style
Minestrone Genovese al Pesto Pesto minestrone from Genoa
Panizza Chickpea Polenta
Pesto di fave Fava Bean Sauce
Pomodori essicati – Sun-dried Tomatoes
Salsa di noci Walnut Sauce
Soviore rice tart
Torta pasqualina Artichoke Savory Pie
Trenette al Pesto Recipes Pesto pasta
Trenette al Pesto con patate Recipes Trenette With Potatoes And Pesto Recipe
Zuppa di pesce (burrida – ciopin) – Fish stew