Speciali della Liguria
We are delighted to bring you featured specialties from the coastal Italian region of Liguria. Genoa is the capital of Liguria, as well as the home of Christopher Columbus, pesto and, according to The Foods of Italy, also ravioli – hard to imagine Italian cuisine without this classic!
Liguria is known as the Italian Riviera, popular with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque towns and excellent cuisine. Because most of the terrain here is mountainous, pasture land is scarce, so there are few typical meat dishes. However, according to Dr. Renzo Scarsi, an expert on Ligurian cuisine, it was the sailors of Liguria’s great maritime fleet that shaped its cooking. Except for a few days after each call to port, the food on board ship was restricted to foods that would keep indefinitely and to readily available fish they caught at sea. The last thing these sailors wanted to eat on their return to Genoa (for centuries the largest port city in the Mediterranean) was fish. Instead, they craved fresh vegetables, fruit and aromatic herbs. Thus this cuisine’s most notable feature are aromatic herbs such as basil, laurel, sweet marjoram and fennel, along with an abundance of fresh vegetables. The sailors’ yearning for the freshness of herbs instead of for the imported dried spices from the Orient (popular in Venetian cuisine) probably explains the cult of basilico or basil in Liguria and its most famous dish, pesto. The word basilico is derived from the Greek word for kingly and in antiquity the plant was considered sacred. Ravioli were also invented in Genoa – according to ”The Foods of Italy” by Waverley Root – and illustrate another aspect of Ligurian cuisine: its foundation in la cucina povera, the poor people’s cooking. In Genoese dialect rabiole (related to “ravioli”) means “things of little value, trifles or leftovers.” — adapted from Louis Inturrisi, NY Times, January 28, 1990