Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.
On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.
Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.
Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.
Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.
Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.
Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).
La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese
The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.
Dough (will make two “14″ pans)
- 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature
- Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
- Sea salt, to taste
In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.
Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.
Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.
Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).
When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.
Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.
Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.
Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto
- 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
- 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
- 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
- 2 potatoes
- 1 leek
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 rib celery
- 1/2 medium onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
- 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.
After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.
Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure
- 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
- 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
- 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).
Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.
Ligurian Olive Oil Cake
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.
Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.
MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)
Genova (Italian for Genoa) is the capital of the province of Liguria located in northwest Italy. Genova or Genoa is Italy’s principal seaport. The city makes a good base or starting point for exploring the villages on the Italian Riviera. It a popular destination for tourists due to the area’s mild climate, the charm of its old fishing ports and the beauty of its landscapes. Many villages and towns in the area are internationally known, such as Portofino, Bordighera, Lerici, and the Cinque Terre.
Genoa was founded in the 6th century B.C. by Phoenician and Etruscan sailors due to its good location and naturally formed port. It remained a very important port throughout its history. In 209 B.C. Genoa was destroyed by the Carthaginians and was rebuilt by the Romans. During the Roman Empire era, Genoa was a major shipping port for goods made locally. After the downfall of the Roman Empire, Genoa became an independent city. In the 11th century, a short-lived alliance between Genoa and Pisa took control over Sicily and Corsica. Later, the two cities waged war against each other for the control of the two islands and Genoa defeated Pisa. After this, the merchants governing Genoa had power comparable only to the Pope and the kings of the European states. During the Crusades, Genoa’s wealth and strength continued to grow and expand and. as a result, they were able to acquire more possessions and trading privileges. In 1408, a group of merchants, who were providing much of Genoa’s defense and expansion funds, formed the Banco San Giorgio (a powerful bank.)
The expansion of Genoa caused regional wars for control of the city. As a result, the Genovese fleet was destroyed by the Venetians and this lead to the weakening of Genoa. The wars ended in 1528 and Genoa became a ship building port and bank center. A symbol of the city, the Lanterna, was rebuilt in 1543 and the yellow light beamed to 36 nautical miles in clear weather. Though Genoa was dominated by nearby countries, like France, it kept its independence until 1797. At that time, Napoleon Bonaparte organized the Republic of Liguria and unified it to France in 1805. Ten years later, Genoa was united with the Kingdom of Sardinia and this country played a very important role in the unification of Italy, since the king of the Kingdom of Sardinia, Victor Emanuel II, became the king of Italy.
The port of Genoa was heavily damaged during WW II and, again, by heavy storms in 1954-55. Soon after, the port was rebuilt and modernized. Although Genoa is a chief seaport, it is also a center for commercialization and industry. Among its leading industries are chemicals, motor vehicles, textiles, locomotives, ships, petroleum, airplanes and steel. These industries have declined somewhat in recent years and the city is relying more on service-oriented businesses and tourism for revenue.
Some great places to see in Genoa are the Palace of the Doges, the medieval Church of San Donato, the Carlo Felice Opera House (dating back to the 19th century), the 16th century churches of St. Ambrose and the Annunciation, as well as, other Renaissance palaces and buildings. Walls and forts are abundant throughout the city and the narrow streets of the harbor area are intriguing. One popular attraction is the lighthouse called Lanterna, mentioned above. This lighthouse is an important “landmark” for Genoa. In 1992, Renzo Piano was credited for redesigning the Old Port. A modern aquarium and a tropical greenhouse are located there. Genoa has a university, which was founded in 1243, and a few museums. Genoa’s maritime presence is still very strong, which can be sensed throughout the entire area. “The Regatta of the Ancient Sea Republics”, involves Genoa, Pisa, Venice and Amalfi in a yearly navigational competition. The regatta rotates among the four areas and occurs every fourth year in Genoa.
Every two years Genoa hosts the Pesto World Championship in the city’s historic Palazzo Ducale, where one hundred competitors from all over the world meet to make their pesto recipe in order to gain the title of Pesto World Champion. The participants are both professional cooks and amateurs who compete by preparing pesto sauces using only authentic ingredients and traditional recipes. The pesto sauces are then judged by tasters ranging from restaurant owners and expert cooks to food and wine journalists.
Sergio Muto is the 2012 winner of the Genoa Pesto World Championship. He’s 58 years old, born in Cosenza (Calabria, Italy) and living in Germany since 1976, where he manages a delicatessen.
Click on this Photo Gallery of Genova for more views of the city.
The Food Of Genova
The first recipe identified in print as Genovese was for Torta alla Genovese (a sort of pie filled with apples, dates, raisins, and pulverized almonds, hazelnuts, and pine nuts) appearing in 1520, not in an Italian book, but in a Catalan-language cookbook by Robert Mestre, chef to the king of Naples. In the centuries that followed, Genoa’s culinary sophistication grew. Local cooks developed some of Europe’s most savory preparations for tripe, stockfish (which is dried cod) and stuffed vegetables. They refined such Italian specialties as minestrone, ravioli, focaccia, and, of course, basil pesto. However, with the possible exception of ravioli (whose filling can include a dozen or more ingredients, some as exotic as calf’s spinal marrow and heifer’s udder), these recipes utilize common ingredients . Genoa developed a number of more complicated local dishes, primarily because it could afford to, and because it had access, through its widespread trade, to ingredients from many parts of the world. (One example: The Genovese are the only Italians who regularly use walnuts in savory dishes—a habit they might well have imported from their Black Sea outposts.
The cuisine of Genoa is based on traditional Mediterranean cooking and very rich in ingredients and flavors. The Ligurians use very simple ingredients, which by themselves may seem insignificant, but when combined together, they accentuate and bring out each ingredient’s individual qualities to produce superb flavor and harmony. At the base of all recipes is Ligurian olive oil, delicately flavored and perfect for preparing sauces. The most famous of these is pesto, a sauce made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Some other well-known sauces from this region are salsa verde, a green sauce made of parsley and pine nuts for grilled meat, and salsa di noci, a walnut sauce that goes perfectly over pasta and ravioli.
Different kinds of focaccia and torte salate (a vegetable and cheese pie) are characteristically Genovese. These dishes are eaten as main entrees, appetizers or snacks. Among the Primi Piatti (first courses), there are different kinds of pasta, for example, trenette and taglierini flavored with Genoa’s very famous sauce, basil pesto or pansotti, a huge ravioli stuffed with vegetables and herbs topped with walnut sauce.
Among the various meat dishes are veal roulades filled with mushrooms, eggs, bread and aromatic herbs, lamb stew with carciofi (artichokes) and a stuffed pocket of pancetta sliced and served cold. Mushrooms are featured in the cuisine of Liguria, flavoring meat dishes and complementing fish dishes as well. Fish occupies an honored place on the menus of Genovese restaurants. Some typical second courses include: Cappon Magro, an elaborate dish made of fish and boiled vegetables and seasoned with a sauce of herbs and pine nuts. Other popular dishes are Fritto Misto (mixed deep-fried seafood), L’insalata di Pesce (seafood salad), Triglie (mullet) alle Genovese, Stoccafisso in Agrodolce, cod in sweet and sour sauce with pine nuts and raisins, Mussels alla Marinara and Stuffed Anchovies.
Among the desserts, one of the most distinctive is Pandolce, a treat found on every table at Christmastime. Genoa is famous for its pastries: Canestrelli, Amaretti, Baci di Dama (little walnut pastries), and Gobeletti, little short breads filled with quince jam.
Genova Inspired Recipes For You To Make At Home
Traditionalists would use a pestle and mortar to make this sauce. Since a food processor is available in our modern world, I prefer to save time and use it whenever I can.
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
- 1 and 1/4 cups tightly packed young basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic, pignoli and the salt together. Gradually pour in the olive oil with the motor running; the mixture will emulsify.
Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl and stir in the Parmigiano and Pecorino with a fork.
Pesto keeps in the refrigerator up to 1 week as long as it is topped with a thin layer of olive oil; it can also be frozen for up to 1 month if the Parmigiano and Pecorino have not been added.
Make a double batch and you can use it for the following recipes.
Linguine with Basil Pesto
- 1 pound linguine
- 1 recipe for basil pesto, from above
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Fresh cracked black pepper
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and linguine into the boiling water. When the pasta is almost cooked to your liking, scoop out 3/4 cups of the pasta cooking liquid and add it to a pasta serving bowl. Drain the pasta in a colander, shaking it to remove excess water. Transfer the pasta to the bowl containing the pasta cooking liquid and toss. The cooking liquid will be absorbed by the pasta. Add the prepared pesto, mix well, and taste for seasonings. It should be well seasoned and the pasta should be quite moist. Serve immediately in hot deep plates, sprinkled with the shredded Parmesan cheese and freshly grated black pepper.
Focaccia with Pesto and Tomatoes
If you would like more of a whole wheat flavor in the dough, substitute 1 cup of white whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the all-purpose flour.
- 3 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed.
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Warm water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the bowl and pizza pan
- Half of the basil pesto recipe from above
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Mix the flour, yeast, and the salt in a food processor. With the motor running, add 3/4 cup of warm (110°F) water, then pour in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add enough warm water (about 1/2 cup) to make a soft dough that forms a ball. If the dough is dry, add a little more water; if it is sticky, add a little more flour.
Process 45 seconds, or until smooth and satiny; transfer to an oiled bowl and shape into a ball. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.
Transfer the dough to a generously oiled 13″ x 18″ rimmed baking sheet and push it with your fingers until it extends to the sides of the pan (you might need to wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax and stretch more easily).
Spread a very thin layer of pesto evenly over the dough, and then scatter olives, tomatoes, and onions over the pesto. Sprinkle cheese over the top of dough and, using your fingertips, press dough all over to form dimples; let sit, uncovered until puffed, about 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 400°F. Bake the focaccia on the bottom rack of the oven until the edges are golden brown and dough is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and cut into squares and serve.
You can also place the focaccia pan on a baking stone in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden on the top and bottom and lightly crisp.
Pesto Chicken Roulade
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – pounded to 1/4 inch thickness
- 1/2 cup basil pesto, from recipe above
- 4 thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
- Olive Oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the pesto sauce onto each flattened chicken breast. Place one slice of cheese over the pesto. Roll up tightly, and secure with toothpicks. Place in a lightly greased baking dish. Brush the tops of the chicken rolls with olive oil.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until chicken is nicely browned and juices run clear.
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