The typical cooking of Liguria is strongly influenced by its geographic characteristics, such as being surrounded by the sea, land and without any open plains.
Thus, the cuisine is not based on the use of meat even raising animals for meat is very rarely seen. However the fruitful nature and the abundance of rain render the land particularly fertile for a great number of pot herbs, which are widely used in their cooking. Marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage, “boragine” and the top quality basil, which is used in the famous pesto, are all very common. Other well knows sauces of the area are the Salsa di noci – Walnut sauce and the Sugo ai funghi – Mushroom sauce.
Given the unpredictable changes in history, the cooking of Liguria can be defined as the perfect example of Mediterranean cuisine, cradled by nature and the work of man. Some recipes are simple and poor, where others rich and full of flavor. Ligurian dishes mirror the creativity of the local population and even the best traditions also of foreign origin.
Since we are speaking of a seagoing republic indeed, many products were imported over the course of centuries, for example baccala` – codfish, and stoccafisso – stockfish, and other recipes are similarly found in Portuguese, French and Catalan cuisines.
An important aspect of Liguria’s cuisine is the technique of food conservation, such as mushrooms in oil, jam, honey, anchovies prepared in salt, brine and various sauces and confections.
Some of the most characteristic century-old sweets are canestrelli cookies, ameretto almond cookies and pandolce, which is a sort of panettone or milanese cake, risen less and rich with candied fruits and raisins.
La Spezia’s cuisine is a particular mix between seafood and meat dishes, a way of cooking that is simple and distinguished by the use of ingredients said to be “poor,” or rater easily available ingredients and typical of this Mediterranean area.
The typical productions of the area are the zucchino alberello of sarzana – the “little tree” zucchini of Sarzana, which ha delicate flavor and produces many flowers. The potatoes of Pignone, beans of Torza, the fagiolo cenerino – a type of white bean form Pignone, il fagiolo ‘lume’ of Pignone, the Mangia benas, the saffron from Campiglia, the kale form Vale di Vara and the castagna burasca ‘storm’ chestnut are also very typical. The province had planned various important projects to develop the production of potatoes and beans of Pignone along with the tat of Chestnut flour. In course now is a plan to recover the Pisello Nero – the black pea of L’Ago, one of the fractions of Borghetto Vara a place in which the constitution of Slowfood is foreseen to unfold.
The passage through the Cinque Terre is characterized by the terraced vineyards, built by man’s hard work, with fig trees strategically positioned to shade the vines in times of rest, and agave to indicate borders and define trail on the steep stone steps.
The most famous wine of the Cinque Terre is the white wine D.O.C. Cinque Terre, and the Schiacchetrà, a valued after dinner wine made from dried grapes. Limoncello, a lemon liqueur, made from the lemons form the area is also very common.
Schiacchetrà is made form vermintino, bosco and albarola grapes left to dry in cool areas on special lattices. The grapes have a high concentration of sugar. It is a D.O.C. – Denominazione d’Origine Controllata product since 1973, like the Cinque Terre white wine, obtained from the same grapes, form vines that are no more than one meter tall. The grapevines do very well in the easily permeable terrain, mild climate with exposure to sun.
Ingredients for 4 people: 300 gr flour, ½ cup white wine, 1 kg pumpkin, 2 onions, 20 grams of dried mushrooms, 100 gr of grated parmesan, breadcrumbs, Salt, pepper, marjoram, 1 clove garlic, Extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the pastry mixing flour, some water, salt and ½ cup of white wine. The result is soft dough; let it rest for half an hour.
Soak dried mushrooms in a bowl (warm water) and leave them there while preparing the rest.
Peel, remove the seeds and slice the pumpkin and 1 onion and make them brown slowly in a covered pan. When everything is cooked, mash the pumpkin until well chopped and then let it cool.
Slice and brown the other onion with the mushrooms (which have been squeezed). Then, add the pumpkin and cook everything. When all is cooked add eggs, Parmesan, a pinch of marjoram, salt, pepper and a pinch of bread crumbs. Mix everything with a spoon.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin and place on a baking pan. Then, pour the pumpkin mixture uniformly and sprinkle with some breadcrumbs. Cook for about 45 minutes at 180 degrees.
200 grams walnuts
1/2 glove of garlic
the soft part of two bread rolls
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Shell walnuts; soak in water in order to remove the bitter inside skin.
Place nuts in the mortar or in a food processor with the garlic, bread soaked in milk and salt. Blend with pestle until smooth and creamy.
When serving with pasta (in Liguria we use pansoti or ravioli or gnocchi), I suggest you to dilute with a little bit of the hot water used to cook the pasta and toss with butter and Parmesan cheese.
- fresh anchovies, large gr. 600
- fresh Swiss chard leaves gr. 200
- chopped parsley gr. 30
- stale bread (without the crust) gr. 30
- graded parmesan gr. 15
- two eggs
- olive oil
- Two cloves of garlic
- pine nuts
Wet some stale bread in a bowl with a bit of milk.
Clean the anchovy, removing the head, opening it up in halves leaving it attached by its back, thus removing the central fishbone, wash and pat dry.
Wash the Swiss chard leaves, removing the light color stem, cook them in a pan with use the moisture left form their washing, as soon as they are tender, drain them and squeeze out excess water very well, chop them and put in a bowl, add the grated parmesan, chopped parsley and garlic, the bread, squeezed of excess milk, the eggs beaten, 2 tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper. Accurately mix the ingredients and distribute this filling on the anchovies, without closing them.
Put a bit of oil in the oven pan, put the anchovies in the pan placing 3 pine nuts on each one and put in the preheated oven (200 degrees Celsius) baking them for 10 to 15 minutes, the filling should not become a very light golden brown.
About 1 Kg. of codfish
For the batter:
300 gr. of flour
10 gr. of brewer’s yeast
a pinch of salt
Put the yeast in a bowl and dissolve it with a tablespoon of warm water.
Add the flour and a pinch of salt, a handful of chopped parsley and begin to combine everything with a whisk adding the fizzy water at room temperature until the batter is smooth, but not liquid, it must remain solid.
Let it rest (not in the fridge) for about a half-hour, then prepare the codfish in pieces (if still wed pat dry with a paper towel) Remember that to soften codfish you must un-salt it by soaking it in water for 24hours, changing the water 4 or 5 times, even better is to leave it under running water . Thus only after this process can you cut it into pieces and dip it in the pre-prepared batter.
Dip the pieces of codfish in the batter so that it is completely covered and put it in the hot oil ( if you want to make the typical “Frisciö” mix the codfish into the batter until you have obtained a cream, frying just one spoonful at a time).
When the fritters are golden brown and thus crunchy outside and soft on the inside, take them out of the oil and leave them on a paper towel plate just for a minute in order to soak up the excess oil.
Serve them on a bed of lettuce, still warm, and it will be a success.