Food and Wine of Liguria
Good things too good to miss:
Ligurians almost make a religion of their devotion to pesto sauce and its main ingredient, fresh basil. There is, however, no uniformity of opinion as to the best recipe for pesto or its best uses. Every village, and for that matter probably every family, has its own recipe for pesto sauce and its favorite shape of pasta to use with the sauce. For example, the Genoese prefer a sharp, pungent pesto sauce which they serve with trenette pasta. Many people opt for a mild pesto sauce, sometimes with cream or butter added. In still other areas, they dispense with the pasta altogether and add the pesto to their local version of minestrone or fish soup.You'll find, however, the basic ingredients of pesto sauce are common to all these recipes: cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino), pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and salt, and of course, fresh basil leaves! In the busy cast of Liguria's food products, this precious little herb plays the starring role! Fragrant and tasty, natural and safe, basil is now covered by the standards passed by the European Union governing the use of additives in agriculture which were adopted in Liguria in 1999. This decision guarantees the high natural quality of basil grown in Liguria. This mark of quality makes Ligurian basil (and its beloved by-product, Pesto DOP - protected origin), the "green gold" of the world's gourmets.
- Torta Pasqualina
Torta pasqualina (Easter cake) is not a dessert, but a savory pie made with eighteen layers of light pasta spread with oil and stuffed with ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, whole hard-boiled eggs, and seasonal vegetables such as artichokes, chard, and onions.
Being a seafaring town, Genoa's cuisine naturally places a high emphasis on seafood. Many of the dishes are familiar foods with different names such as branzino (sea bass), dentice and orata (sea bream), cernia (grouper), and merluzzo (cod). Popular shellfish selections include cozze (mussels) and ostriche (oysters). Aragosta (lobster) and granchio (crab) are also familiar delights, which taste even better enjoyed set against the charming background of the Ligurian coast. This is not to say there aren't a few surprises lurking, however!Stoccafisso is a piece of cod dried to something resembling fish jerky, which is soaked and then cooked to perfection. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it! Another unusual cod dish much loved in the region is baccalà, a dish made of salted cod treated in much the same manner and served in a delicious sauce. Many visitors may be put off at first by the strong smell, but the taste and texture are definitely worth a go! Bianchetti or rossetti are tiny, tiny baby fish served up locally in a number of delicious variations. They are always quite fresh, often boiled, and dressed simply with oil and lemon, or cooked into a frittata. A definite must, as well as the moscardini, polpo, or totani (all belonging to the cephalopod family, which includes squid and octopus) prepared in so many different ways.
Even those not fond of fish are sure to succumb to acciughe fritte. These fried, fresh anchovies, breaded and often stuffed, are the perfect accompaniment for the region's fabulous white wines!
Wines to look for:
Some whites and the rare reds that our small region produces are of excellent value and great tradition. Today with the Rossese Dolceacqua, the Pigato, the Vermentino, and the whites of Val Polcevera and of Cinque Terre, Liguria offers a wide range of high-quality wines with a limited production that once more testifies the validity of these products. In fact during the course of the last decade there has been a shift from quantity production to quality production more focused on supplying a high-value product.
- Rossese Dolceacqua
This vine is considered to be indigenous in spite of the fact that it could, in some vague way, be related to the French wines cultivated in the Bandol region. It is certain that the vine was introduced in Liguria by the first Phoenician and Greek colonizers and inherited, fully developed, by the Romans. It is the first red to have been given the DOC (name and origin controlled) in Liguria.
It is a wine of probably Greek origin that came to Liguria from Spain and Corsica. The origin of its name could come from the dark spots that characterize the matured grapes. It is a white wine that assumes different flavors, colors, and aromas according to the different areas of production within Liguria. It can be gold and pale in color if produced on the coast or bright with greenish toning if produced in areas away from the sea. The scent is always an intense mix of grass and woods, pines and sea, with a lightly fruited perfume. Flavor: a dry aroma, intense, warm that permeates the mouth leaving a persistent trace.
Very common in Liguria and Sardinia it has long been considered to have originated in both regions. It is, in fact, a variety of Malvasia which arrived in Liguria in the 13th century from the isle of Corsica. This vine variety does not tolerate the rigors of the winter and therefore can be found only near the coast. It is golden in color, lucent, tending to amber after one year in the bottle. Delicate scents of the countryside, slightly fruity. Soft, serene, and pampering flavor. Its light, sweet taste develops with grace into an almond-like bitter finish.
- Cinque Terre
Made from 60 to 100% Bosco grapes and 40 to 0% Albarola or Vermentino grapes. The color is a very light yellow tending to straw with greenish highlights. The scent is fine and delicate of good persistence. The taste is dry and fresh.
Only very special enotecas in Liguria stock the famous Sciacchetrà, but it's worth the search! It is an exceptional and precious raisin wine, produced with sun-dried white grapes, the same grapes used to produce the fabulous white Cinque Terre DOC wines. A unique filtration process through layers of wood gives the satisfyingly sweet wine its characteristic golden color streaked with amber and the unforgettable flavor.