What to eat in Liguria region?
Updated: May 31, 2022
Liguria, located in north-western Italy, is the region that includes the cities we have mentioned in previous blog articles, namely Best of Genoa and Best of Cinque Terre. We have already recommended in these articles what to eat in these locations but now we will try to expand your menu during your fantastic trips. The crescent-shaped, Ligurian region lies between the Alps and the Apennines to the north and faces the Ligurian Sea to the south. Because of its location, its gastronomy of sea mixes with that of the hinterland.
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The basil-based sauce, its original preparation is by crushing the leaves in a marble mortar, into which garlic, oil, cheese, salt, and pine nuts are poured. Usually, the fresh pasta accompanied by this sauce is trenette, troffie, corzetti, and lasagne.
Did you know that Disney has created a character to celebrate the charm of Ligurian pesto? His name is Paperin Pestello!
Homemade pasta or fettuccine is called picagge in the Ligurian dialect which means cotton webbing. Prepared with white flour to chestnut flour, they can be dressed with traditional pesto or a sea bass sauce, or even a walnut sauce.
It is a fish soup dish, rich in flavor, which is prepared in different ways according to the area of Liguria, using different fish such as gurnard, cuttlefish, stockfish, smooth dogfish, etc. This dish is accompanied by the “Gallette del Marinaio” similar to crushed bread which has to be soaked like biscuits. In Genoese, Buridda means fish cut into pieces but if you hear this term on the street, you should know that it also means chaos!
Ligurian highlights include Pansoti, pasta stuffed like large Tortelli filled with vegetables, and more precisely gathered herbs. The term pansoti comes from the word pancia (belly), precisely because of their shape. Their original recipe is with the typical walnut sauce.
Genoese focaccia, fügassa in dialect, is originally enjoyed plain with a drizzle of oil. The pan used to bake it is 'llama', rectangular with very low sides. Its history dates back to when the Phoenicians, who used to mix flour with water and oil. Moreover, it was even eaten in church, especially during the bride since it was a symbol of prosperity. Definitely represents the Genoese ad hoc breakfast dunked in cappuccino, but cut into cubes, excellent for an aperitif! golden to amber in color, crispy on the edges and outside, with lots of alveoli.
The recipe is based on chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil. There are many legends surrounding the creation of this dish, but the most famous is the anecdote of the Battle of Meloria when a great storm caused several barrels of oil and chickpeas to fall and mix with the salt water. So, the Genoese decided to try cooking the mix. This is a simple and popular dish that should be enjoyed in the street, still wrapped in papê, or cartoccio.
Gambero Rosso di Santa Margherita
Become a legend in Ligurian cuisine, the red shrimp is a prized fishing resource in the Santa Margherita Ligure area. These are large shrimp, which can reach 25 centimeters in length, and have become a marine jewel with a ruby red color. Another typical Ligurian variety is the purple prawn.
Typical Genoese salad used as a side dish made with peppers tuna anchovies Taggiasche olives tomatoes salted capers cucumbers, garlic, basil leaves served with “gallette del marinaio”. In ancient times, it was a dish eaten by sailors on cargo and fishing boats.
Called U Pandùçe in the Ligurian region, it’s a Christmas dessert circular in shape, which originates from the Republic of Genoa. Outside Italy, it is called Genoa Cake and is a soft cake similar to Panettone containing a large number of sultanas. Another version specific to Alassio (a Ligurian town) is the “Pane del marinaio” (sailor's bread).
Curiosity: Legend has it that Doge Andrea Doria held a competition for Genoa's pastry chefs to create a cake representing the peasants. The pandolce looked like a kind of sweet focaccia that had a long shelf life and was therefore perfect for the long voyages of sailors. True ancient tradition would have it that the cake is served with a bay leaf in the middle, a symbol of good luck.
A classic soft biscuit with the unmistakable bittersweet taste of almonds, it is very famous in the Ligurian region. Aromas, honey, and milk can be added to these. Slightly crunchy and tender on the inside, they are also eaten with jams of all flavors such as apricots, figs, strawberries, and berries. The most famous brands are Lazzaroni and Amaretti Virginia. The originals are from the town of Sassello, a beautiful village in the hills between Liguria and Piedmont. Very often they are enjoyed with a glass of Moscato with fruity and floral notes. Ecco qui, how to combine Liguria and Piedmont!
Also called Gobeletti, cumeletto, cubeletto depending on location, as some Ligurian towns claim “paternity” of this sweet. It is a truncated cone-shaped pastry cake, which forms the base and a hat shape covers the cake filled with a heart of fruit jam. The latter is traditionally made from quinces makes them soft and tasty. If you want to make an oenological pairing: a passito, perhaps of Pigato (Ligurian grape variety). In Genoa, these sweets are traditionally prepared on St Agatha's Day (5 February) in Val Bisagno, where an agricultural fair is held (Fiera di Sant’Agata).
Exquisite layered cake consisting of a sponge cake and two creams, one white and one chocolate, and liqueur to moisten. It originated from a famous Genoese factory called Preti, which is remembered for its preparation of another typical Ligurian dessert, the flower-shaped shortcrust pastry Canestrelli. This is why the cake has a Canestrelli inside! However, the name of this cake comes from a character in an Italian poem “L'Orlando Furioso”, namely Sacripante who was valiant and strong. Perhaps because of the strong and decisive flavor attributed to it. Moreover, it is often eaten on festive occasions.
Baci di Alassio
They can be considered the siblings of the 'Baci di Dama' that we described in the article What to eat and drink in Turin. They were invented by the son of the confectioner who invented the Baci di dama. These Baci di Alassio (Kiss of Alassio) honor the city in the province of Savona. The combination of hazelnuts and cocoa gives rise to a soft dough that is joined by two fragrant hemispheres with chocolate ganache. The idea was to create a cake as a gastronomic souvenir reminiscent of Alassio. It is no coincidence that this town is known as the city of lovers, after the legend of Princess Adelasia and her squire Aleramo, a young couple who fled because their families rejected their love. Aleramo founded a town that was given the name Alaxia in honor of the princess. So, what sweet could ever remind us of the city of love other than the Bacio of Alassio?
Wine is definitely one of the drinks to try in Liguria: from white wines such as Vermentino with hints of peach and apple, broom and wild flowers to be drunk with fish dishes, Bianchetta which is Genovese with notes of citrus, Pigato fruity and light with hints of almond and Colle di Luni great for starters. As for red wines such as Dolceacqua and Orpeasco, Rosso di Levanto or Tigullio Rossese.
Sciroppo di rose
Typical Genoese excellence that comes from the Valle Scrivia where the Rosa Centifolia is grown. Its petals are used to produce this syrup to offer to guests. Previously used as a medicine because of its anti-inflammatory properties for the mouth and throat, while today diluted with white wine it is presented as an aperitif. There is no certain knowledge of the origin of this drink, but what is certain is that in the 1700s in the Genoese valleys there was widespread cultivation of particular roses, from which a true elixir was made.
That was our guide about the typical cuisine that you can find in the Liguria region, so if you want to know what to eat in Cinque Terre or what to eat in Genoa, you know it now!