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The Cooking and Cuisine of Liguria


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For May, we will explore the cuisine of Liguria, home to Genoa, the Italian Riviera, and the Cinque Terra.

The most famous recipe from this area is of course pesto. In his book covering Liguria, Recipes from Paradise, Fred Plotkin gives 14 different variations on pesto, proving again that there is no one "definitive" recipe in Italian cooking.

Plotkin and other writers have noted that despite it being a largely coastal region, Ligurian cooking isn't as purely seafood as one would think; the waters immediately off the coast do not yield the rich range of seafood that, say, coastal Adriatic cities, or citiies further down the peninsula on the Meditterranean side benefit from. As a result, the sailors from this region would have to venture much further out for longer periods of time, and so when they returned, the wives would prepare meals consisting of fresh vegetables and meat, things they had been deprived of for so long at sea.

This is another region I'm glad to see so well-matched to the time year; very delicate and herbal, lots of vegetables. As we were doing Lent when I tried this region last year, I didn't get to give many meat dishes a spin, so I'm eager to try them out, the first one standing out in my mind being tomaxalle, the veal rolls braised in tomato sauce.

Book references seem pretty thin. An Amazon search for "Genoa", "Liguria", and "Italian Riviera" turned up only three consistently:

Recipes from Paradise : Life & Food on the Italian Riviera

by Fred Plotkin

Flavors of the Riviera

by Colman Andrews

Enchanted Liguria: A Celebration of the Culture, Lifestyle and Food of the Italian Riviera

by David Downie, Alison Harris

Again, I only have experience with one of these books: Plotkin's. Between this one and Terra Fortunata from Friuli, I prefer Recipes From Paradise simply because it doesn't skimp on recipes. However, given how much I enjoy Downie's Rome book, now my curiosity is piqued about his stab at this region. And Adam recommended the Andrews book last year but I unfortunately didn't get around to ordering it.

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Also, let's go ahead and open the polls for Q3 voting. That way we vote all this month and I announce the choices at the start of June to give everyone a month to track down references and such.

So, PM me your choices for the regions we will do for July, August, and September.

The remaining regions not covered by that point are:


The Veneto




Le Marche








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In Classic Food of Northern Italy. Anna del Conte recommends Cuciniera Genovese, first published in 1863 and written by Gio Batta & Giovanni Ratto.

Here's a link with a few more books about Genoa, some cookbooks, if all in Italian.

Because of all the sailors leaving the ports of Genoa, the new thread on salted cod is quite relevant to this month's region.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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liguria is home to one of my all time favorite foods, focaccia col formaggio, from the small town of Recco. This is something that bears as much resemblance to the thick doughy focaccia common in the us as pizza hut does to proper italian pizza.

here are a couple of links to recipes and photos:




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While not a ligurian expert..am passionate about Liguria!

Being from San Francisco and now living in FLorence since 84... whenever I get near the sea, I get emotional!

My Florentine husbands grandmother was from Camogli, so it is one of our favorite places to visit.

Here is a link to one of my favorite places, Luchin and their recipe for Torta di patate e pesto.

I also have made a mean Foccaccia di Recco...

secret is using cake flour..for the light dough, I don't use yeast, and for the filling I use a neufchatel cheese lightened and make tart with a couple of tablespoons of sour cream.

will look for my recipe.

Green beans and potatoes cut into tiny cubes and cooked with the trofie pasta and dressed with pesto...

Capon Magro.. the masterpiece of a seafood salad....anyone game?

Edited by divina (log)
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For mother's day... I did a blog entry on Ligurian Rose Syrup.

Here is the recipe

I ended up adding a tiny bit of red food coloring to highten the pink tones.

A neighbor of mine here is Tuscany, Isabella Devera of the Fattoria di Magliano, makes this, and I believe it is available at Whole Foods and a couple of other places in the states.

I see that Fred Plotkin makes a Rose Honey.

The syrup is great in drinks, ice tea, champagne etc... very delicate.

Don't use sprayed roses!

Edited by divina (log)
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Divina, what is the rose syrup used for traditionally? I'm all in favor of flower flavored foods!

We passed through Liguria briefly on a trip from Rome to Southern France a few years ago with stops in La Spezia and Genoa, but I'm afraid all I can remember now foodwise from that part of the trip is the screaming blue Aqua Velva flavor gelato Bill found for me!!! I don't think I'll ask him to replicate it :laugh:

On another topic, the recipe name tomaxelli or tomacelli goes back at least to the 14th century in Italy, when it seems to have been a liver (or fish) and herb sausage, but by the 16th century at the latest it was being used for little veal rolls (without the tomato sauce of course)

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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This post about the wines of Liguria will likely be much shorter than other posts of mine about wine from the other regions (thus far).

When people think of Liguria, they think of the Cinque Terre. And there is a DOC by the name of "Cinque Terre" that is one of the more well-know white wines outside the region and the country. It is said that the vineyards in those tiny terraces so close to the Mediterranean actually catch some sea spray giving the grapes and the wine a bit of a taste of the sea. Most of the wine stays in the region, being too delicate to travel successfully, but some of it is making it out because people recognize the name Cinque Terre, and recognition is part of the marketing and selling game. Personally, the wines don't do a lot for me.

My favorite whites from Liguria, though, are from the Golfo del Tigullio DOC, particulary wines made from the grape bianchetta genovese. The wines are very dry, have a mineral component, and slight apple-peach flavors. If you are getting zucchini blossoms in your area, this wine is a must with those.

Although known more for whites, the oldest DOC in Liguria is for the red wines of Rossese di Dolceacqua from grapes grown near the border with France. Production is small. The wine isn't "sweet water," but is named as such because it is made in the village of the same name. The grape is rossese, which generally produces lighter-styled wines.

Many of the DOCs in the area will have a passito wine, most of which are not terribly sweet. The exception is the Cinque Terre Sciacchetra, which produces a sweet white wine. I've never had it, so I can't say more than it exists.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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There are always lots of sources for recipes and information to be found on the internet should you not come across a copy of the book you'd like to own or sift through at the New York Public Library while your kids are doing their homework.

Here are some of the best I found, but by no means all of them:

1) Micol Negrin's page on Liguria offers wonderful recipes and even a series of instructive photographs to guide you in preparing one of the region's specialties. Her book, Rustico is something I would consider purchasing.

2) A number of us have praised the About.com site, for information as well as recipes.

3) There's this.

4) And this.

5) And this too.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Moreover, you may also wish to read:

6) Recipes here.

7) or here

8) My beloved Zingerman's on pesto. N.B. Remember what Kevin said about different types of pesto in one of the books? Cf. Amazon.com and consult the "Look Inside" for a couple of versions.

9) There's Babbo on Liguria with a link at the bottom you should consult too (Faith Willinger).

10) And if you REALLY want to knock yourself out, there's Cap[p]on Magro, as Divina mentioned. If you're looking for the absent bird, do note that the name of the dish is a bit of a tease. Capons were served on special occasions, so this recipe suggests that it is an elaborate dish. One story has it that wives of sailors served it to their men when they returned from a long voyage at sea.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Wow, this Capon Magro sounds fascinating. I am a little confused though with a few things in the recipe:

1- The bread loaf, are we supposed to leave pretty high walls on (say 3 inches or so making it more of a bread bowl, or are we to leave nothing more than a half inch high walls or so. I guess the use of the word "disk" later on confused me.

2- How are the layers built? are the vegetables mixed together? Or does each vegetable get it's own layer?

3- How is this served? by itself? with some sort of good crsuty bread?

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Thank you! The link to last year's wonderful Ligurian meals is inspirational.

(I have that little ravioli mold, too, a g-d-send for me since I can't draw a straight line. The only problem I have is that my old hand-crank Atlas pasta machine does not always provide sheets wide enough for the mold.)

* * *

When I lived in St. Louis, Missouri, I was appalled to learn that deep-fried ravioli was one of the local specialties. Never tried it, though I meant to.

I can't remember where I saw the reference, but I read that fried ravioli are made in Liguria. I'd assume that the frying occurs in the region's olive oil instead of a vat of lard. However, Kevin or anyone else, do you know more?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Actually, this is a cooking thread...we're just warming up. :rolleyes:

No one has ventured a first report just yet.

I hope you'll find more than one recipe for trofie--a type of pasta you're right to single out--in one of the links as well as the bibliography introducing the thread.

Anna del Conte says that the dough is made with flour, water, a little olive oil and only sometimes an egg, and cut into small squares before being "dragged over the work surface so that they take the shape of a spiral."* She also says this specialty of Genoa and nearby coastal villages is extremely difficult to make; it's customarily boiled with potatoes and green beans before it is mixed with pesto.

*Gastronomy of Italy, 1st ed., p. 357.

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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The best promotional for Ligurian cuisine came from either a PBS or Discovery channel story about a farmer there who climbed a hill with some basil in his hand and made some pesto in a mortar. He talked about each ingredient as he added it and his speech was such that you salivated at the thought of grinding the basil, salt, and garlic . The olive oil brought it all together and the king of cheese perfected it. He should have recevied the Ligurian award for tourism promotion. He mixed in the pasta and you really wanted some of that wonderful creation he was absolutely enjoying. I made some of my very own immediately.

Cooking is chemistry, baking is alchemy.

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Ligurian dinner!

Linguine with maro, sauce of fresh fava beans, mint, olive oil and pecorino.

I used Marcella Hazan's recipe, she says 550 grams of fava beans will yield about 170 grams double podded beans. Double podding raw favabeans is a real pain. :angry: (double podding them when they are blanched is much easier). Also, I had about a kilo of unshelled beans, and ended up with 150 grams double-podded beans. Took me 45 minutes to do it.

Anyway, no more complaining, this was delicious:


The picture does not really show how beautifully bright green this was.

from the Plotkin book: Pesce alla Ligure.

This is seabass, baked with olives, white wine and olive oil. I put some fresh marjoram and garlic in their cavities.


On the plate with blanched green beans, which were briefly cooked together with cherry tomatoes, garlic and lots of basil. Don't know if this is Ligurian, but at least it had basil :smile:


Dessert, also from the Plotkin book: Spungata. Plotkin calls this a fruit pie.. it's a mixture of jam (I used blackcurrant), almonds, pinenuts and candied citrus peel, baked in a delicate piecrust. As I was making it, and tasting the filling, I was worried that it was going to be very sweet and rich, and felt it needed something cool and tangy to balance it out. So I quickly made some hangop (hang-up..) which is just a cute Dutch word for drained joghurt, to go with it:



A wonderful dinner, and happy diners!

Edited by Chufi (log)
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Looks wonderful as always, Chufi! I had my eye on that very same fish dish for this month, as well. Congratulations on being the first out of the gate with a Ligurian dinner!

Double podding raw favabeans is a real pain.  :angry: (double podding them when they are blanched is much easier). Also, I had about a kilo of unshelled beans, and ended up with 150 grams double-podded beans. Took me 45 minutes to do it.

Do they sell frozen edamame in Amsterdam? :biggrin:

Edited by Kevin72 (log)
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Chufi, everything looks great.

Is the Linguine recipe from Marcella's "Essentials Of Classic Italian" book or another one. If its another one do you mind summarizing how the sauce is made?

What about the fish, is is simply baked in a pan along with aromatics, olives and wine?

I only ask because I could, just hypothetically make the same stuff for Sunday :smile:.

The tart looks perfect too.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Klary - What a great start to the ligurian cooking thread! The tart especially interests me because I have something very similar planned for tomorrow from the Rustico cookbook by Micol Negrin. In the section on Liguria, she has a recipe for I Gubeletti della Signora Baj/Signora Baj's Apricot Jam Cookies. They appear to be individual apricot jam pies made in a cupcake tin. Your tart looks very tempting!


"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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Double podding raw favabeans is a real pain.  :angry: (double podding them when they are blanched is much easier). Also, I had about a kilo of unshelled beans, and ended up with 150 grams double-podded beans. Took me 45 minutes to do it.

Do they sell frozen edamame in Amsterdam? :biggrin:

Probably, in Asian supermarkets.. :smile: I was ready to make this with frozen favabeans, but then I found reasonably fresh ones at the market.

Is the Linguine recipe from Marcella's "Essentials Of Classic Italian" book or another one. If its another one do you mind summarizing how the sauce is made?

What about the fish, is is simply baked in a pan along with aromatics, olives and wine?

Elie, the recipe for Maro is from Marcella Cucina.. she says to use it as a spread for bread, or as a sauce for cold meats. For a pasta sauce you thin it with some of the pasta cooking water. Proportions: 170 grams of doublepodded beans, 1 1/2 tablespoons Pecorino (I used a bit more) , 1/2 teasppon garlic (I used a bit more) 4 tablespoons olive oil, 6 mint leaves (I think I used more). She also says to put in some lemon juice but I forgot.

Just put everything in the blender and puree!

The fish is really simple but it was lovely. I had some really fresh seabass. Just some herbs (I used marjoram) and some garlic in the cavity, and then pour over a mixture of olive oil and white wine (twice as much wine as oil). Add the olives and bake in a moderate oven until done (time will ofcourse depend on the size of the fish).

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Klary: Gorgeous meal? Now you live up to your name as the Sea Bass Lady.

You said you thought the dessert might be too sweet given its filling. How did you like it?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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