Flavors of Liguria
Flavors of Liguria
A cuisine that undoubtedly honors its region’s heritage as a seafaring empire, the Ligurian kitchen has roots in the time of the ancient mariners. Out to sea for months at a time, Ligurian sailors returning home frail and unsatisfied from subsisting on the salt preserved fish and stale bread of their ship’s galley, demanded an abundance of fresh ingredients in their homecooking. As such, Liguria has maintained its tradition of using only the freshest of ingredients for the basis of its cuisine. Fresh fish and seafood, fresh herbs and vegetables, and freshly baked breads make up the essential staples of Ligurian cooking.
TRENETTE OR TROFIE AL PESTO
Perhaps Liguria’s most signature dish, fresh pesto is made with the Genovese small leaf variety of Basil, which is preferably picked while still young. Using a mortar and pestle, and ground laboriously by hand, the pesto is made by crushing together fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, pecorino and parmigiano cheeses, olive oil and salt. Traditionally, pesto is served over trenette pasta, a long, narrow and flat noodle made from multi-grain flour. To properly assemble the dish, potatoes and green beans are boiled in salted water. When the vegetables are almost ready, the pasta is added to the boiling water and cooked alongside the other ingredients. The pasta, potatoes and green beans are then strained together and tossed with the pesto sauce before serving. Sometimes the potatoes and green beans are served on top of the pasta as an accompaniment.
A quintessentially Mediterranean inspired dish, stoccafisso accomodato is prepared with dried cod, tomatoes, potatoes, pine nuts, garlic and parsley. The dish is commonly found throughout Liguria in most local restaurants by the sea.
CIUPPIN (ZUPPA DI PESCE)
The base from which the much beloved San Franciscan staple Cioppino was created, Ciuppin was first brought to the city by Genovese immigrants. The fish stew incorporates fresh local fish like gallinella, rombo, scorfano, and other variations of rock fish, with tomato, celery, garlic, onion, lemon, white wine and parsley, in a deliciously aromatic broth flavored with the essence of the sea. Today’s variations of Ciuppin sometimes also include shellfish like razor clams, mussels, shrimps, clams and sea snails.
Focaccia, or fugassa in the local Genovese dialect, has become an internationally enjoyed snack eaten around the world. The official and most traditional recipe for focaccia calls for the bread to be soft on the inside, pliable and two centimeters thick. It should not be chewy or oily, and according to the Slow Food experts, the rising of the dough should take no less than eight hours. The classic Genovese focaccia is simple and delicious, with sea salt and fresh rosemary sprinkled on top.
MINESTRONE ALLA GENOVESE
Originally a peasant dish, minestrone alla Genovese is not your typical vegetable soup. The green minestrone is made with zucchini, cabbage, string beans, kidney beans, potatoes, eggplant, brichetti (little matches) pasta, and most importantly, fresh pesto. A hearty comfort food to stave off the chill of rainy winters in Genoa, the soup is packed with vibrant, fresh flavors.