Liguria Food & Wine
Liguria makes the most of the fruits of land and sea. Luxuriant hills, mild temperatures and an abundance of sunny days provide a natural bounty of foods, like meaty porcini mushrooms, pine nuts, chestnuts, fresh vegetables and herbs, while the sea naturally provides a variety of fish like anchovies, renowned for their flavor. With the regions delicate, and some say best, olive oil, Liguria creates dishes like braised salt cod, stewed rabbit, and an array of subtle sauces, the most eminent being the pesto.
Pesto, an intensely green, fragrant sauce traditionally made by pounding olive oil, basil, pine nuts and marjoram together with pecorino or Parmigiano cheese, is added to and ladled onto a multitude of dishes from the favorite pasta al pesto to minestrone and fish soup. Ligurians almost make a religion of their devotion to pesto sauce and its main ingredient, fresh basil. Every village, and most likely every family, has its own recipe and its favorite shape of pasta to use with the sauce.
Ancient Ligurians made polenta and breads from the flour of dried chickpeas and chestnuts. Lasagnette, a type of pasta made from chestnut flour still appears on menus, as does farinata, a tart made with chickpea flour and olive oil. Pasta remains a staple, though it is made almost entirely from wheat. Focaccia, a dimpled flatbread, is the region's most exemplary bread. Traditionally baked plain, it can be stuffed or topped with any ingredient and enjoyed as a snack throughout the day. Pizza dell'Andrea is a popular version topped with onions, garlic, tomatoes, black olives and the area's legendary anchovies or sardines.
Meats are used resourcefully and seafood is obviously abundant. Vegetables combined with traditional fresh herbs and wild herbs known as preboggion make the fillings both for dishes like tagliatelle, served with a variety of sauces, and the well-known torte di verdura, and torte verde, vegetable pies made with borage and other wild late-winter herbs, for pasta and cakes like the legendary "torta pasqualina" and the well known "cima di vitello alla genovese" (rolled beef stuffed with a mix of vegetables and cheese).
Cuisine in Liguria is a harmony between the foods of the sea, the garden and the woods.
The extraordinary wines of Liguria are a direct result of the ancient Phoenicians, founders of Marseille in 7th century BC. From the vines they planted on the scarcely accessible terraces of Liguria so long ago, come the glorious but limited wines available today. First among them, is the dry white known as Cinque Terre, produced in the five fishing villages of the same name, and from the same grape, the famous and unique Sciacchetra, a dry or sweet white, fruity raisin wine, recommended as an aperitif or dessert wine. Vermentino and Pigato, also excellent, are from the Dolcetto grape. Though about one hundred different varieties of grapes are cultivated in this small strip of mountainous land, most of them made from this single grape.
Red wines are rare but excellent in taste and tradition. Rossese di Dolceacqua, a sweet-scented red wine, and Ormeasco, both made from the Dolcetto grape are a fine choice for red wines.
However, Liguria specializes and excels in white wines that complement the delicate and zesty local cuisine of seafood, mushrooms, aromatic herbs, walnuts, pastas and baked goods. Wines are very dependable and carefully produced on in limited quantities. Producers focus on quality rather than quantity to assure a high value product.