A landscape, a cuisine. Liguria is a swath of land that descends from the wooded slopes of the Apennines all the way to the shores of the Ligurian Sea.
Narrow and boxed in the rock, this land could only be exploited thanks to the tenacious and centuries-old work of the local people. A patient and complex, parsimonious gastronomy, which can blend the tastes and aromas of the sea and the mountain in such an original and unique manner.
Surrounded by a crown of ragged and rocky peaks, Liguria stretches among forests and steep valleys until it plunges into the sea. From ancient times, such geographical configuration has made it unavoidable for the local populations to seek their own vital space seaward. Yet, with endeavours that have lasted for centuries and thanks to the construction of dry walls, they have also succeeded to carve out small patches of flat land on the steep coastlines, thus turning the local scenery into a lush and orderly garden.
Enhanced by a mild and favourable climate, olive trees, the king of Ligurian cuisine, and the grapes that produce the famous Cinque Terre wines grow on these terraces. And all sorts of vegetables full of flavour and flowers that have made this region famous.
Liguria boasts preparations known and appreciated also throughout Italy. In particular, Pesto, a sauce typical of Genoa, which mingles the tastes of the sea and the sun in its recipe: oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, sea salt and a handful of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
It is used as dressing for summer vegetable soups, often combined with rice, it goes wonderfully with dry pasta of which Genoa has been historically one of the first producers. It is indeed in the ports of Genoa that the durum wheat imported from Crimea arrived to be used in the preparation of pasta that here, like in Sicily, was dried out in the sea breeze.
A whole range of pasta shapes were born in this region: from Trenette to Trofie, from Pansotti to Piagge, and Corzetti.
In Liguria sea cuisine is a given, with popular dishes like Ciuppin, a fish stew made with the small fish left over at the fish market; Buridda, stewed stockfish; Cappon Magro, a copious variety of vegetables and small fish in olive oil.
The most popular cooking technique though, is frying : for fish and also for vegetables and herbs, meats, flowers (frisceu), and focaccias.
Among meat dishes, Stuffed Veal Brest is celebrated, but as typical are also Rabbit stew and Lamb and artichoke fricassee.
Vegetables are the stars of uncountable recipes: baked stuffed, soused, in vegetable tarts, stuffed in focaccias often flavoured with onions, rosemary, cherry tomatoes.
Pies and focaccias, savoury or sweet are almost synonym with Ligurian gastronomy. Focaccia from Genoa is prepared with a mixture of durum and common wheat, thoroughly kneaded for a long time with yeast, oil, water and salt, then let prove and spread by hand flat in the baking sheet, greased a little bit more with olive oil emulsified with a drop of white wine, then baked in the oven for about twenty minutes at medium-high temperature. Once cooked, it is shiny with oil, amber in colour, crunchy, friable and tasty.
The Oil Fugassa, the Chickpea flour, the Focaccia from Recco with cheese and the Herbs Pie are among the many savoury facaccias worth mentioning.
Among the sweet ones, Frisciolata and Castagnaccio, the almond tart, and Pandolce, to enjoy with a glass of the peerless Sciacchetrà.
Extra virgin olive oil is the feather in the cap of Ligurian gastronomy from the East to West Coast.
There are also some high quality vegetables: we already mentioned the basil from Genoa, with its special features, colour and aroma, the delicious white bean from Pigna and from Conio, the appreciated taggiasca olive, preserved in brine so that it can be available all year long, the lemon from Monterosso, a cultivation with a long tradition in this region.
And another product is the Gabbiana chestnut, spread all over the Ligurian Apennines that makes a very sweet flour, used for the regional pastry.
Among fish and seafood, mussels from Spezia, called also “muscles”: they are distinguished for their small size and taste, especially suited for stews, and if larger they are stuffed.
The wealth of Ligurian wines is not among the most renowned, but it offers interesting wines, suitable to be paired with the sea and land dishes of regional tradition.
Eugenio Montale, the poet from Genoa and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1975, saw in the lemons from his Liguria (grown in the Cinque Terre) a symbol of his poetry, which talks about simple matters of everyday life, and also makes life rich. As described in one of his poems: in the city, from a building’s door left ajar, appears the yellow of the lemons
“and the heart’s ice thaws,
and songs pelt
into the breast
and trumpets of gold pour forth
epiphanies of Light!”.
Some typical recipes
Why not cooking a typical Ligurian dish? Here for you are some delicious ones.
From the ancient seafaring tradition, a gluten free Italian recipe with simple ingredients full of flavours.
Trenette al pesto
A classic of Liguria’s gastronomic culture.
Zuppa di cozze
Tasty and delightful, this typical Italian recipe, spread all along the coasts of the country, tickles your appetite without making you feel heavy.
From taste with the scent of citrus and nuts.