Surrounded by dry, rocky mountain peaks, Liguria is made up of forests and steep valleys that lead down to the Tirreno Sea. Ligurians tend to be drawn to the water. For centuries, they have terraced the land in order to build homes and small cities along the coast.
Surrounded by dry, rocky mountain peaks, Liguria is made up of forests and steep valleys that lead down to the Tirreno Sea. Ligurians tend to be drawn to the water. For centuries, they have terraced the land in order to build homes and small cities along the coast. Seen from the water, the steep hills look like a well-manicured garden. The mild, coastal climate is ideal for growing olives, an essential ingredient of Liguran cuisine. The rest of the fertile land is planted with grapevines, vegetables of all kinds, flowers and more.
The simple, natural flavors of region’s produce are known, and loved, throughout Italy. Genovese pesto is popular among all Italians and is made with one of the region’s most ubiquitous plants – basil. The basic recipe for pesto captures the flavors of both the land and the sea: olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, sea salt and a handful of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Pesto is used to flavor summertime vegetable soups or rice dishes, or tossed with dry, versus fresh, pasta. Historically, Genoa was the one of the first cities to produce dry pasta. The best hard wheat came from Crimea and was delivered to the port. Like in Sicily, the pasta was left to dry in the sea breeze. The pasta was formed into a number of sizes and shapes that have become symbols of Ligurian cuisine: trenette, troffie, pansotti, piagge and corzetti.
Not surprisingly, fish and seafood are popular in Liguria. Some classic dishes include Ciuppin, a soup made from the little, leftover fish from the market; Buridda, warm saltcod; and Cappon magro, a kaleidoscope of little vegetables and fish cooked in olive oil. The most common cooking technique is frying, of fish, but also of tons of vegetables and herbs, meat, flowers and focaccia. Local vegetables appear in innumerable recipes: stuffed, baked, marinated in carpione, in herb tarts, and focaccia seasoned with onions, rosemary and tomatoes.
Stuffed tarts, or torte, and focaccia, both savory and sweet, are almost synonymous with Ligurian cuisine. Be sure to try the local Fugassa, Farinata di ceci, and herb tarts. In terms of sweet breads, there are Frisciolata, Castagnaccio, almond cake, Pandolce, and sweet ravioli from Genoa to eat with a glass of Sciacchetrà.