Food in Liguria, Italy

Pimsleur Approach • January 23, 2013 • Food & WineComments (0)

As one would expect from Italy, Liguria is not much different from the rest of the country when it comes to food. This is not in a negative sense, of course! What we mean is that you can find many yummy treats in your plate!  In fact, being Liguria a region between the sea and the mountains, its typical dishes have both the fresh, delicate taste of fish and Mediterranean herbs, and the rich, earthy flavor of pine nuts, mushrooms, and game meat.

Liguria: Pesto Sauce
Pesto Sauce – Image via Wikipedia

Of course, the most famous food item from Liguria is pesto sauce. Now, you may have tried pesto at home, but do not miss fresh handmade pesto, because you would really be missing out! Authentic Genoese pesto, characterized by a dark green hue and intense fragrance of herbs and garlic, is made in a stone mortar using an olive wood pestle, adding one by one all the ingredients, gently grinding them to obtain a smooth sauce. The secret for a perfect pesto is said by some to be the basil, which in Liguria has small leaves and thin stem.
The most traditional pastas to go with pesto are trenette, similar to linguine, and trofie, a shorter type of pasta typical of the region. Interestingly, pesto is even added to minestrone here! Such soup can be eaten hot or cold, so you should be able to find it in every season.

Liguria: Focaccia

Focaccia - Image via Wikipedia

Another important and equally famous treat is the focaccia, flat bread kneaded by hand, sprinkled with salt and extra-virgin olive oil. Delicious when plain, also try the variety filled with soft  cheese called Focaccia di Recco, or the one topped with onions, black olives and tomatoes, known as Pizza all’Andrea or Sardenea – you’ll just love it!

Farinata is a very safe bet. Quite nourishing and filling, it’s a sort of flatbread made with chickpeas flour, water and olive oil, simply mixed and baked until golden.  It could be considered street food and is served in chunks; it can be seasoned with black pepper, onions, rosemary, artichokes, or even with soft cheese, sausage or bianchetti (whitebait of what Italians call pesce azzurro – sardines, mackerel, anchovies and the such). Panissa has the same ingredients of farinata, but it’s cooked in a pan, cut into pieces when firm and seasoned with oil and lemon juice, or with onions.

If you like filled pasta, do yourself a favor and get some pansoti. They are similar to tortellini or ravioli, but do not contain meat. They are usually filled with ricotta cheese and vegetables or herbs, and seasoned with a walnut sauce.

Liguria: Cappon Magro
Cappon Magro – Image via Wikipedia

In case you’re in Liguria for Christmas or Easter, you should easily find the cappon magro in the shops. It once used to be prepared and eaten by fishermen or by the servants of the richest people, who recycled the leftovers of their masters. Now it is considered a complex dish, worth of the biggest festivals. It looks like a pudding containing just fish and vegetables, piled on a base of savory biscuit. It may also contain eggs and seafood. Easter time also brings Torta Pasqualina, a savory cake made of many layers of thin pastry (in past times, housewives used to make 33 of them, indicating Christ’s age) covering a rich filling of whole eggs, grated cheese, vegetables, marjoram, soft cheese and nutmeg.

As fish is fresh and nice in this region, try at least once the bagnun d’acciughe, a soup invented by fishermen and based on anchovies, olive oil, peeled tomatoes and onions, served on dry bread. Buridda is a sort of fish stew with vegetables – octopus, squid or eledone (commonly known as moscardino) cooked with artichokes, cabbage, chard and so on, depending on the season.

Cundigiun or Condiglione could be described as an interesting and extremely rich salad, whose recipe varies from zone to zone. It’s usually based on red, green and yellow peppers, onions, tomatoes, tuna fish, hard boiled eggs, salted anchovies, olives, basil, all drizzled with salt and olive oil. Think about niçoise salad – they are quite similar.

Want to start your day or finish your lunch with something yummy and sweet? Get some canestrelli – the fragrant, traditional marguerite-shaped biscuits with a hole in the middle, drizzled with icing sugar. There are many stories about these cookies. Some say they were invented with a purpose – to hold up the chocolate eggs prepared for Easter. Some say there were made since the Middle Ages, and used as a proof of payment given by lords to their vassals.  But what’s important, is that these delicate treats became a staple of Italian patisserie, together with baci di dama di Alassio, small round hazelnut biscuits glued together by a paste made of boiled milk cream and chocolate.

Liguria: Amaretti
Amaretti – Image via Wikipedia

Amaretti are also from Liguria. These round cookies are made with almonds, sugar and egg whites, and have a peculiar, slightly bitter (“amaro”) taste – hence their name.

Last but not least, Liguria, and especially the city of Savona, is the home of Chinotto, a bittersweet dark carbonated drink made with a small citrus that bears the same Italian name – the myrtle-leaved orange tree, whose fruits must be processed in a long and complex way before they can be consumed, as they are quite bitter and not good to eat raw.

Liguria will definitely satisfy your curiosity for new dishes, thanks to its peculiar history and geography that molded the traditional recipes of this beautiful, beautiful region.

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