From Levante to Ponente, Ligurian cuisine in 11 stops
A stretch of coast as unique and surprising as its cuisine, based on ancient traditions and genuine produce.
1. Testaroli, an ancient tradition between two lands
The Lunigiana is a historic region located between Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Liguria: in this bordering territory dialects, cultures and flavours are fused giving life to traditions which go beyond the administrative divisions. Like testaroli, the first dish common to the province of Massa-Carrara in Tuscany and La Spezia in Liguria. Considered by many to be the ancestor of pasta, it is cooked in terracotta pots. It is to be enjoyed with the authentic Pesto from Genoa, or with “erbi” (a mix of wild field herbs).
2. A sweet wine from bitter lands: the Sciacchetrà
The cultivation of grapes in Cinque Terre is carried out in difficult conditions, so much so that it has been defined as “heroic viticulture”: the vineyards are situated on terracing clinging to the mountains, which together with the colourful towns have modelled the extraordinary landscape of this stretch of Riviera di Levante over the centuries. Yet man’s labour was able to draw, from a such a bitter territory, a valuable and exclusive product, the passito Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà COD. Ideal for accompanying desserts and very aged and strong cheeses, or as a meditation wine, to be enjoyed slowly while gazing towards the wonderful Mar Ligure.
3. Gattafin, simplicity and flavour
Gattafin are large fried ravioli, they are prepared with a simple dough made with flour, oil, water and salt, they are filled with wild herbs seasoned with onion, egg and Parmigiano cheese. They are typically from Levanto, people-friendly city with one of the most extended beaches of the Riviera di Levante, but you can enjoy them in all of the hill areas of the Riviera di Levante, from Sestri to La Spezia.
4. Focaccia: fragrance and seduction
Recommending you try the Ligurian focaccia is almost excessive: while strolling through the narrow streets or caruggi, the fragrance of this delicacy will guide your senses and your steps towards the closest bakery. Two variations are the most well-known: the Focaccia genovese-style, seasoned with a generous drizzling of extra virgin olive oil, characterised by its deep holes which, according to the variety, may hold coarse salt grains, onions, potatoes, olives and the Focaccia di Recco, thin, soft, filled with prescinseua (a soft cheese, PGI) or stracchino cheese. Each last Sunday in May, the city of Recco holds a celebration in honour of this speciality.
5. Discovering the authentic Genovese pesto
Pesto is one of the most famous Italian condiments all over the world, but only in Genoa and in the region of Liguria is it possible to taste the authentic Pesto Genovese with its 7 traditional ingredients. It is precisely here that the Genovese basil PDO is cultivated, it is more delicate and free of any minty after-taste compared to the other varieties: to be even more exacting, the best variety is the one cultivated in the Pra’ quarter, on the uplands of Genoa. And then the extra virgin olive oil PDO of the Riviera Ligure, fruity and delicate, it does not cover the other flavours. The garlic from Vessalico, cultivated in the province of Imperia, gives the sauce its typical intense aroma while still a particularly easy to digest variety. The pine nuts, according to the procedural guideline, must come from the Mediterranean area. The coarse salt, from Cervia if possible , but nonetheless of Italian origin. Lastly, the cheeses: parmigiano Reggiano and pecorino cheese from Sardinia. There is, in closing, an eight essential ingredient: the care of those who still today mix the pesto in the mortar!
6. Artichokes with tender hearts
The Albenga purple artichoke is a unique product: the consistency of the inner leaves, particularly tender and crisp, besides being sweet, make it possible to enjoy the flavour even raw, in a crudité or in a salad. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a typical recipe, try the “Carciofi all’inferno”, Inferno-style artichokes, probably named in this way because of the traditional cooking method in a pot with embers on the top and bottom.
7. The Taggiasca olive, small but precious
Small and pulpy, with a fruity flavour and fragrance, the Taggiasca olive is an extraordinary product from the Riviera di Ponente. It is not by chance that the oil extracted from it is particularly refined and with a velvety and sweet taste. It is typical of the province of Imperia in the Ponente area, particularly in the town of Taggia from which it gets its name.
8. The encounter with strong flavours: Badalucchese-style dried cod
A savoury recipe from ancient tradition, where the dried cod is cooked in a sauce of pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, olives and amaretti biscuits. It is a typical dish of the city of Badalucco, town which, according to legend, managed to resist a long Saracen siege thanks to their dried cod provisions.
9. Cucina bianca, flavours of high altitude
Let’s move away from the sea and go up in altitude to discover the flavours of the Cucina bianca, or white cuisine, a demonstration of the farming and pastoral culture of the Ligurian Alps, on the border with Piedmont and France. It is a simple, flavourful and rich cuisine prepared with vegetables like potatoes, garlic, leeks, cabbage, onions, wild peas, and even snails, eggs, nuts, flour-based products, milk and dairy products. The aromatic herbs gathered along the mountain trails are also present in this cuisine. Among the typical dishes and products we would like to mention the turle, ravioli stuffed with potatoes, cheese and mint and the bruss, a fermented ricotta cheese, excellent spread on Triora bread, to season pasta or polenta and to flavour soups and baked potatoes.
10. Fragrances and flavours of the coast: Ligurian stuffed anchovies
Many Ligurian gastronomic traditions are tied to fishing and one of the most widely used variety of fish in the cuisine of this region is the anchovy. Particularly delicious and tasty, the Ligurian stuffed anchovies are filled with garlic, marjoram, cheese and milk-soaked bread and are then fried or baked.
11. Riviera Ligure Oil PDO, the essence of every dish
As in every Mediterranean kitchen worthy of its name, oil is indispensable, it is the essential ingredient in every kitchen and at every table. If you are interested in eating cuisine which is 100% authentic, make sure the dishes are prepared and flavoured with Riviera Ligure extra virgin olive oil PDO, which includes three varieties: Riviera dei Fiori, Riviera del Ponente Savonese, Riviera di Levante.