Food is an intrinsic part of Italian culture, no matter where you go in the country. This is especially true for Liguria, a region which has earned its place in Italian culinary history as the origin of pesto and is still known today for the abundance of great foods that are exported from the area. Here are three, must-try recipes from the Northern Italian food haven of Liguria.
Linguine Al Pesto
The name linguine means “little tongues” in Italian, in reference to the pasta’s oval-shaped tendrils. You may associate linguine with seafood, due to the popularity of linguine alle vongole, however, the pasta goes magnificently with the earthy tang of pesto too.
According to the Italian food connoisseurs over at Pasta Evangelists, Liguria’s capital Genoa is the birthplace of pesto alla Genovese, so it’s no surprise that linguine is the traditional pairing for pesto.
Linguine al pesto is a delightfully simple dish that can be whipped up in minutes for a lazy summer dinner. The recipe calls for only a handful of essential ingredients: Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, pine nuts, basil — and, of course, freshly cooked linguine.
- 400g linguine pasta
- 75g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 handful pine nuts
- 1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Put the basil, garlic, pine nuts and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Blend on high for a few seconds then add the Parmigiano and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Mix until pesto is smooth and creamy.
- Add the linguine to a pan of salted boiling water and cook until al dente.
- Drain pasta and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the pesto and stir well.
- Serve immediately with a garnish of fresh basil leaves, a sprinkle of pine nuts and a good drizzle of olive oil.
Focaccia Alla Genovese
A Ligurian speciality that’s deeply rooted in Genovese cuisine, Focaccia alla Genovese is thin, greasy and deliciously fragrant. The flat, oven-baked bread is similar in style to pizza bread but deceptively light and airy — making it perfect as an aperitivo or primo.
It takes time and patience to perfect Focaccia alla Genovese. In fact, it’s considered near impossible to create it authentically outside of Liguria. However, this recipe allows for a delightful starting point — why not give it a try?
- 200ml lukewarm water
- 350g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp malt extract
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp fine salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Rosemary leaves
- Coarse sea-salt, to garnish
- Pour the water and yeast into a bowl and whisk well with a standing food mixer.
- Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, then mix in the salt, olive oil, honey and flour — a bit at a time.
- Continue until the dough is smooth and elastic with just a small amount of stickiness.
- Mould the dough into a ball and wrap with a clean kitchen towel. Rest for 2 hours in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard.
- Once the dough has about doubled in size, unwrap from the kitchen towel. Using your hands, spread it over a shallow baking dish to conform the dough to the corners.
- Using your fingers, create little dimples over the surface of the dough. With a pastry brush, spread a generous amount of olive oil over the focaccia, focusing on filling the dimples.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. While the oven is heating, sprinkle the dough with coarse sea salt and rosemary leaves.
- Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Torta sacripantina, or sacripantina cake, dates all the way back to 1851. Chef Giovanni Preti created the rum-soaked dessert allegedly in homage to The Frenzy of Orlando, the epic poem by Ludovico Ariosto. Named after the heroic King Sacripante, the creamy dolce is crafted from layers of pan di spagna and oodles of buttercream. Indulgent yet delicate — torta sacripantina is a Ligurian must-try.
- 3 large free-range eggs, yolk and white
- 5 large free-range egg yolks
- 125g caster sugar
- 100g 00 flour
- 100g potato starch
- 20ml maraschino liqueur
- 20g apricot jam
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds separated
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 500g vanilla pastry cream
- Icing sugar, to garnish
- Add the whole eggs, sugar, vanilla seeds, maraschino liqueur and grated lemon zest to a cake mixer.
- Mix on high for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is frothy with bubbles appearing on the surface.
- On a low speed, whisk in the egg yolks one at a time.
- Remove the mixture from the mixer. By hand, stir in the flour and potato starch until combined.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line two shallow cake tins with greaseproof paper.
- Share the mixture equally between the pair of cake tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until firm.
- Remove from the oven and transfer the cakes to a cooling rack.
- Once cool, layer one sponge with a generous layer of pastry cream followed by jam.
- Sandwich together and garnish the whole cake with a sprinkle of icing sugar.