Typical Ligurian cuisine

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  • Liguria

A journey exploring Ligurian cuisine must begin with the area’s renowned flag bearer, pesto. This is much more than a simple sauce in Liguria: it is a veritable institution.
It is important to emphasise that the pesto alla genovese is made, not cooked! Cold preparation with a marble mortar and pestle means that the fresh ingredients must be of the highest quality, specifically pesto’s cornerstone: Ligurian basil - this key ingredient is what gives pesto its “distinctive” flavor and is practically impossible to imitate. Called baxaicò or baxeicò, it is selected and handled with utmost care and respect; its unmistakable scent reigns supreme in both Western and Eastern cooking and wherever basil is grown, sprouting up from gated gardens, pots by the doorstep, or a tin can on a windowsill set out in the sun. The Genovese basil variety has unique aromatic characteristics and since 2005 is guaranteed and protected by a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). The other ingredients of pesto are pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, course sea salt, Sardinian pecorino and the indispensable PDO extra-virgin olive oil from the Ligurian Riveria, mature and sweet, that both binds and enhances the individual fragrances of the ingredients. This renowned oil is omnipresent in all traditional recipes and is used to fry, preserve, and dress finished dishes (it is even used for desserts). It is produced all over the region with differences in flavour that vary from province to province: in the West, where the Taggiasca olive predominates, it has a fruity, strong and sweet flavour; the olive oil from the Genoese hinterlands and La Spezia has a fruity flavour with hints of bitter and spice. Pesto is used to sauce trofie, trenette avvantaggiae with potatoes and green beans boiled in the pasta cooking water, vegetable soup and mandilli de saea ("silk handkerchiefs", short lasagne noodles).

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Street food is one of the Liguria’s strongest traditions and is especially associated with the region’s capital city of Genoa. Its origin can be found in the historical port and the many businesses that sprang up to offer quick meals for the camalli (dock workers). Fans still flock to the sciamadde (blazes), typical shops with wood-fired ovens, for their fainà (farinata, a pancake made from chickpea flour). Another wood-fired speciality emblematic of  Ligurian “street food” is fugassa, a soft foccaccia made from wheat flour, doused with olive oil and sprinkled with grains of sea salt and served hot after being left to rise for many hours. In Liguria focaccia is eaten at any time of the day: with espresso or cappuccino for breakfast, or as an aperitif with a glass of white wine such as Vermentino, Sciacchetrà or Pigato. A number of tasty variations on the original are to be found travelling along the Rivieras: in Recco the focaccia with cheese, in the province of Imperia the pissallandrea, made from bread dough and topped with cooked onions, olives and anchovies, and in Sanremo the sardenaira.

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Tasty deep-fried treats served from a paper cone include frisceu, delicious vegetable fritters (made with sage, borage, and lettuce, depending on the season), fried battered fish, cuculli (chickpea fritters), strips of panissa, fried codfish, squash blossoms and sgabei, fried bread pieces typical of the far-eastern area. Another category of foods that are easy to eat on the go are vegetable pies, a long-held tradition: in Genoa pasqualina (a paper-thin crust stuffed with beet greens, eggs and prescinseua cheese) is the undisputed leader, but there are a variety of different fillings: artichokes, zucchini, pumpkin, and onions are among them. In the West a handful of rice is often added to “enrich” the filling. Ligurian cuisine is distinctive for its use of simple ingredients (like chickpea flour) and the use of vegetables as a lean filling.

The reason for this can be traced back to the unique make-up of the Ligurian territory, perched between the mountains and the sea. In the past the primitive road networks isolated the area from markets in other regions and this is why the regional cooking here has such strong ties to local products. Traditional recipes make great use of fresh fish, legumes that arrived in great quantity from maritime trade routes (and which  are the base of mesc-ciùa, made in the East) and naturally fresh vegetables from the garden patch. ( Fonte: www.turismoinliguria.it)

 

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