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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

a tavola - the cuisine of liguria
(return to food)

Our family has spent a great deal of time in Liguria. Living in Pavia, we could go to the Ligurian seaside for the day. We also spent long periods in the summer in various parts of this beautiful region. Liguria is a very familiar and loved place for us. Among our favorite places - Camoglie, tiny fishing village - no beach - and the tiniest beach in the world at Fructuoso - no village - where a statue of Posiden is buried beneath the sea just off shore.

I have lots of pictures of the President of this website wearing only a bikini bottom, splashing in the water and playing on the beach with her sister at various ages. We will not publish those pictures here!

For centuries Ligurian sailors plied the seas as part of the spice trade, bringing to Europe the exotic products of the Far East and Africa. When they returned from their long, arduous voyages, the sailors had had their fill of fish and spicy food. What they wanted instead was fare that spoke of their homeland, made from vegetables fresh from the gardens and farms that cling to the Ligurian hillsides. As a result, the dish that is now most closely identified with this region is pasta al pesto, noodles bathed in an intensely green and fragrant sauce.

"Every village, and for that matter probably every family, has its own recipe for pesto sauce and its favorite shape of pasta to use"
Ligurians almost make a religion of their devotion to pesto sauce and its main ingredient, fresh basil. While they generally favor fresh herbs in their cooking, it is basil that inspires the most interest. There is, however, no uniformity of opinion as to the best recipe for pesto or its best uses. Every village, and for that matter probably every family, has its own recipe for pesto sauce and its favorite shape of pasta to use with the sauce. For example, the Genoese prefer a sharp, pungent pesto sauce which they serve with ravioli filled with veal and cheese. Many people opt for a mild pesto sauce, sometimes with cream or butter added. In many areas, the preferred pasta is trenette, a sort of plump local version of linguine. In still other areas, they dispense with the pasta altogether and add the pesto to their local version of minestrone or to fish soup.

The basic ingredients of pesto sauce are common to all these recipes: fresh basil leaves, cheese (either Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino), pine nuts or walnuts, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. The great debate, and the great fun, about pesto is deciding on the proper proportions with which to combine these ingredients and whether to add any extras. Ultimately, with some experimentation, you can make pesto that suits your tastes exactly, just like every cook in Liguria.

Traditionally, pesto sauce is made by hand with a mortar and pestle. Fortunately, we have food processors and blenders which make the job much easier. Save your energy for other things, like making fresh pasta to go with the pesto.

Pesto can be applied to just about any shape of pasta, not just ravioli or trenette, and other ingredients can be included with the pasta. My family likes pesto with gnocchi. Pesto is also excellent in many soups, from vegetable soups such as minestrone to zuppa di pesce.

more liguria....
* Liguria region
* Liguria Guide
* Genoa Lost & Found
* Get thee to the nunnery!
* The truth about olives
* Put... Puttering Around
* Ligurain Cuisine
* What do you know about Liguria?
* More Italian regions...

Funghi a Funghetto
1-1/4-2 pounds fresh porcini or other meaty mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh oregano or marjoram
extra-virgin olive oil

Clean mushrooms thoroughly with a damp cloth and cut into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Set aside.
Cook garlic and oregano or marjoram in olive oil in a large pot over low heat for about 5 minutes, then add mushrooms, stirring them so that they are well coated in oil. Season to taste with salt, then continue cooking, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes or until the mixture has lost its excess liquid but is not completely dried out. Serve as an appetizer or side dish, or as a sauce for pasta or rice.
Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Serves 4.

Maro is a creamy emulsion of raw fava beans, cheese, garlic, and olive oil, can be used as an appetizer spread on crackers or bread; as a condiment for boiled meats, cold baked ham, or roast beef; as a dip for raw oysters; over steamed mussels; or as a pasta sauce. The density of the maro made from the recipe, here is intended for use as a spread or dip. If used as a condiment, it should be loosened with a little more olive oil. If you want it on pasta, hold back some of the water in which you cooked the pasta and add a tablespoon or two to the maro, when tossing it with the pasta, dry pasta such as spaghettini, thin spaghetti, or fusilli would be the one to choose.

1 1/4 lb fava beans, unshelled
2 tbsp Romano cheese, grated
1/2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
3 fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
1 2/3 tbsp lemon juice, fresh
6 ea loosely packed mint leaves
freshly cracked black pepper

Shell the beans out of their pods and slip your fingernail or the tip of a small paring knife under the pale skin of each bean to peel it away. You should obtain about 1 1/2 cups shelled and peeled beans.

Before proceeding, taste the grated Romano cheese. If it is exceedingly salty, reduce the quantity slightly. A Sardinian Pecorino cheese of grating consistency such as fiore sardo, if it is available, is a mellower and desirable alternative to Romano.

Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process to a creamy consistency.

Serves 4.
Source: Marcella Cucina

Spinasci a-a Zeneize - Genoese Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts
This combination goes well with cooked meats, especially tomaxelle, as well as simply prepared fish. The combination of spinach, raisins, and pine nuts is a classic in this stretch of the Mediterranean. This spinach is a popular appetizer when served on triangles of toast.

1 pound fresh spinach
1 tablespoon pinoli
2 tablespoons Ligurian extra
1 pinch fine sea salt
virgin olive oil
6 slices toast, each cut into 4 triangles, if serving as an appetizer
1 clove garlic, with the green heart removed, minced
good oil
1 tablespoon golden raisins or currants, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes

Carefully wash the spinach, removing all of the sand. Steam the spinach for 5 minutes, using only the water that clings to the leaves. Then remove the spinach and carefully squeeze out all of the liquid. Chop coarsely. Heat the olive oil gently in a pan or skillet. Add the garlic and let the oil become fragrant (the garlic should not turn color). Add the spinach, saut� for 3 minutes, then add the raisins, pinoli,and salt, and saut� for 4 to 5 minutes, turning the ingredients frequently so that nothing sticks or burns.

Serves 6.



Lasagne col pesto - Lasagne with Pesto
This pleasant alternative is especially suited to the summer months.

a packed cup of fresh basil (about 30 leaves)
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino (use either Tuscan or Sardinian Pecorino - Romano is too sharp; if need be increase the Parmigiano)
1/2 cup excellent olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts (optional)
salt to taste
a pound of lasagne, either fresh or dried
grated Parmigiano.

Preheat oven to 385�.
Mince, in a food processor, the basil, garlic, cheeses, and a pinch of salt; you should aim for a uniform paste, rather than a liquid. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the oil in a slow stream, stirring so as to amalgamate it.

If the lasagne are fresh, cut the sheets into four inch squares if need be. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil, add a spoonful of oil to it, so the sheets won't stick, and add the pasta. Cook it till it's al dente, then remove the sheets with a slotted spoon and set them to drain on a clean cloth. Stir two tablespoons of the pasta water into the pesto.

Melt a dab of butter in a hot serving dish, then lay down a layer of pasta and a thin layer of pesto, sprinkle the pesto with grated cheese, and lay down another layer of pasta. Continue alternating pasta and pesto till all is used up, heat through in the oven, and serve.
Note: This pesto sauce will work equally well with spaghetti.

Serves 4.
Source: Italian Cuisine

Pansoti col Sugo di Noci - Pansoti with Walnut Sauce
1 recipe basic pasta
2 bunches Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield 1/2 cup
2 bunches basil, finely chopped to yield 1/2 cup
1 cup cooked spinach, finely chopped
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4 tablespoons whipping cream

In a bowl, combine parsley, basil, spinach and Pecorino and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Lay out pasta on work surface and cut into 2-inch diameter circles. Place 1 teaspoonful of herb mixture in each one and fold into half moons, pressing firmly to close. Continue until all are finished. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.

In a blender, combine oil, nuts, garlic and cheese and blend until almost smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into a 12-inch to 14-inch saute pan and set aside. Add cream to pan.

Place pansoti in water and cook until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and pour into pan with sauce. Place over medium heat and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.


Gnocchi di Patate alla Genovese - Genovese-Style Potato Gnocchi
4 lb. 6 oz. potatoes
5 cups flour
9 cloves garlic
pine nuts
grated Pecorino Romano cheese
extra-vergine olive oil
grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Boil the potatoes, remove the skins and mash them. Let them cool and then work in the flour to make a dough. Divide the dough into pieces and roll out each piece into a tube with the circumference of a finger. Cut each roll into pieces, each about 3/4 inch long. Rapidly roll each piece on a dough-board, make a slight indentation in the surface of each and place the pieces on a floured towel.

Prepare the pesto. Roughly chop the garlic, pine nuts and a large bunch of basil leaves, add a pinch of salt and pound the mixture in a mortar or put it in a blender. Add the grated Pecorino Romano, a bit at a time, and blend in the olive oil little by little and in sufficient quantity to obtain a smooth, creamy sauce. Fill a large pot with water, add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the gnocchi a few at a time, removing them with a skimmer or slotted spoon as soon as they pop to the surface of the water. Drain them well and arrange the gnocchi in layers in a soup bowl. Spread some of the pesto, diluted with a bit of the cooking water, over each layer along with a great deal of grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.



This is a traditional Ligurian fish stew, and which will go nicely with Cinque Terre, a white wine eked from the terraces around the towns on the Ligurian coast. To serve six you'll need:

3 pounds of mixed fresh fish (red mullet, angler fish, dogfish, drumfish, etc - things that are inexpensive and fresh)
1 1/4 pounds cuttlefish and/or and baby squid
1 pound onions
1 pound of fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
A pinch of dried oregano (no more)
3/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Slices of toasted Italian bread, for serving

Clean the mollusks, and slice all the fish, removing any bones you may find. Thinly slice the onions, and blanch, peel, and chop the tomatoes. Take a Dutch oven or other pot elegant enough to double as a serving dish, and lightly oil the bottom, then sprinkle it with half the tomatoes and onions. Salt and pepper lightly, then arrange half the fish over the vegetables. Add another tomato-onion layer, then another fish layer, then season again and sprinkle the top with the parsley, oregano and wine. Cover and cook over a very low flame for about an hour, or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Occasionally shake the pot lightly but do not stir it, lest you make a mushy mess. Serve the Buridda over slices of toasted Italian bread.

Source: Italian Cuisine

Fritto Misto di Mare -- Seafood Fritto Misto
Little can be more refreshing, or more picturesque, than a fritto misto di mare on the coast. It requires absolutely fresh fish however, and care too, because otherwise it becomes heavy and difficult on the digestion. The traditional fritto misto includes representatives of most of the watery families, including mollusks and arthropods. There's also what's known as a fritto di paranza, which is just very small (2 inch long including head and tail) fish rolled in flour, fried, and served with lemon wedges. You eat them heads and all (unless they're a little larger than normal), and purists frown on cleaning the fish because the intestines provide a slightly sharp flavor contrast. I prefer my fish cleaned and you may well too. But if the heads are small they're pleasingly crunchy, and the tails are perfect handles.

In any case, to make a fritto di paranza to serve six you'll need about 2 pounds (1 k) of assorted tiny, minnow-sized fish. To make a more standard fritto di mare you'll need 2 1/2 pounds (1.2 k) of mixed small fish, including fresh sardines and anchovies, baby squid, baby cuttlefish, small crabs, scampi and other assorted crustaceans, reef mullet and tiny whiting, sole, and whatever else your fishmonger suggests.

You'll also need 2 cups flour for rolling the fish, abundant oil (it's best to fry in several pots so what fries first will still be hot when the last things are cooked), salt, several lemons cut into wedges, and sprigs of fresh parsley to serve as garnish.

Wash, clean and pat the fish dry. You can bone the minnows, opening up like a book to remove the spines, but it's not indispensable. If you are using something like sole, filet it. Cut away the mouth parts of the squid and cuttlefish, remove the innards without breaking the ink sacks (you can use them to make a risotto with squid ink), and remove the bones from the cuttlefish (give them to a friend who keeps caged birds). Cut the bodies of the mollusks into rings, and keep the tentacles together in bunches. Shell or don't shell the crustaceans depending upon how hard their shells are.

Coat the fish thoroughly with flour and fry it, beginning with the mollusks and then the crustaceans, followed by the larger and then the smaller fish. As the fish rise to the surface and turn golden remove them with a strainer and drain them on absorbent paper. Transfer the fish to a platter, season it with salt, garnish it with parsley, and serve it with the lemon wedges.

Source: Italian Cuisine


Flan di boraggine alla salsa di noci - Green flan with walnut sauce
For the flan:
1 lb. 6 oz. borage
3 eggs
2 oz. Grana cheese
1/2 pt b�chamel
walnut kernels 4

For the nut sauce:
1 sprig of marjoram
1/2 garlic clove
7 oz. walnuts
1 oz. grated Grana cheese
3 oz. oil
1 oz. butter
one tbsp warm water
2 tbsp cream or bread crumbs soaked in milk
Borragine - borage is a vegetable found almost exclusively in Liguria. You can substitute with swiss chards or beet greens.

For the flan:
4 oven molds

Boil the vegetables, drain well, centrifuge them and blend. Add the b�chamel, the egg yolks and the cheese to the vegetables and 3 egg whites beaten stiff. Season with salt and pepper and a tbsp of olive oil. Butter 4 oven molds and line them with bread crumbs, fill them with the mixture and bake them in a double boiler in the oven for 25 minutes 325�F.

For the Sauce:
Grind the marjoram leaves together with the garlic, the walnuts (add a few at a time) and the grated cheese. Add the oil, the melted butter, the tbsp of warm water and either the cream or milk soaked bread crumb until you get a compact mixture.

Put a little walnut sauce on the side of each plate, the flan in the middle and decorate with walnut kernels and majoram leaves.


Polpettone di Patate - Potato-String Bean Tart
This popular dish, called porpetton de faxolin in dialect, is irresistible. Polpettone in the rest of Italy means meatloaf, but in Liguria there is no meat in sight. This tart is wonderful as a snack, an antipasto, or a main course.

1lb boiling potatoes, peeling, cut into pieces
1lb pound string beans, preferably slender
1 tablespoon Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, green heart removed, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat) parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or thyme, torn into small pieces
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fine unflavored bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set two pots of water to boil. Add a little salt to one of them. Then add the potatoes to that pot, cook for about 20 minutes, drain, and mash.

In the other pot, cook the string beans for 12 to 15 minutes (thin ones less, thicker ones more). Drain, and then chop them coarsely.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the string beans, parsley, and oregano or thyme. Cook for 2 minutes, until all of the flavors have combined. Remove from heat and let cool.

Once the beans and the potatoes have cooled, combine them in a bowl. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano, eggs, ricotta, salt, and pepper, and combine the ingredients well.

Grease a 12-inch round glass oven-proof baking dish with a little olive oil. Sprinkle in some bread crumbs, but not too many (perhaps one-quarter of the total amount). Then spoon in the string bean mixture and smooth the top with a spatula. If you wish, you can score the tope to form a pattern - Ligurians typically create diamonds. Top evenly with the rest of the bread crumbs.

Bake for about 45 minutes and serve hot, warm, or cool. Makes one 12-inch tart.


Fennel Salad with Toasted Walnuts
This refreshing salad is made with autumnal ingredients. If you prepare it in advance, add the pears at the last minute or they will become soggy.

8 oz fennel, finely sliced
2 pears, cored and sliced
8 oz ) seedless grapes, halved
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
4 oz walnuts, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
1 tbsp walnut oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp concentrated apple juice
1 tsp ready made grain mustard
salt and pepper
1 lollo rosso lettuce

Prepare the fennel, pears, grapes and oranges. Mix together in a large bowl. Toast the walnuts for 5-7 minutes in a hot oven, 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Allow to cool, reserve a few as garnish, then mix the rest with the salad ingredients.

Mix the dressing together in a jar and shake well. Season to taste. Toss the dressing into the salad. Separate the leaves of the lollo rosso and line a bowl. Fill with the salad and garnish with the remaining walnuts.

Verdura con Vinaigrette di Noci - Baby Greens with Walnut Vinaigrette
6 C. mixed baby greens, washed and dried
2 C. chicory, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 C. radicchio, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 C. red cabbage, shredded
1 C. walnuts, roughly chopped
1 C. spicy sprouts
1/2 C. green onions, sliced
Walnut Vinaigrette (see below)

In a large bowl, toss together mixed baby greens, chicory, radicchio, and red cabbage, and set aside. In a non-stick skillet, toast walnuts until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Set walnuts aside. Divide tossed greens evenly among 6 plates. Evenly dividing among the 6 plates, sprinkle the toasted walnuts, spicy sprouts, and green onions. Prepare Walnut Vinaigrette and drizzle over individual servings.

Walnut Vinaigrette:
1/4 C. tarragon wine vinegar
1 1/2 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. white pepper
1/2 C. olive oil
1/3 C. walnut oil
3 T. water

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add remaining ingredients and whisk vigorously until well combined. Yield: 1 1/3 Cups.

Serves 6.

Insalata Mista - Mixed Salad
1 large carrot, peeled
1 small head Bibb lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar

Using vegetable peeler and working over large bowl, cut carrot into long thin ribbons. Add lettuce, radicchio and fennel. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over salad and toss to coat. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 6.


This recipe is very popular because it has the right amount of alcohol and combines cake and ice cream. It's also popular because it can be made ahead and frozen; if you do so give it time to warm up before you serve it, as it should be firm but not hard.

1/4 pound pan di spagna (this is also known as genoise -- a light airy cake)
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
3 sheets of fish glue, or a packet of unflavored gelatin of the kind used
to thicken puddings
1/4 pound baking chocolate
About 10 candied cherries
1/4 cup maraschino cherry liqueur
1/2 cup candied citron
1/4 cup milk
A high-sided hemispherical bowl about 7 inches across.

For the chocolate sauce:
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon butter

Put the sheets of fish glue in a bowl and cover them with warm water to soften. Set aside the best looking cherry and dice the rest with the citron. Shred the baking chocolate.

Next, make the chocolate sauce: Melt the butter over low heat and stir in the cocoa and water. Slowly stir in the sugar and continue cooking over a low flame for five minutes, stirring gently, then remove it from the fire.

Squeeze the sheets of fish glue dry, and melt them in a pot over a low flame with three tablespoons of water, then let the mixture cool (if you are using powdered gelatin mix it up).

Cut the pan di spagna into quarter-inch thick slices and line the bowl with them. Sprinkle them with the liqueur, and, if need be, a little milk. Whip the cream to soft peaks, then beat in the confectioner's sugar and the gelatin, which should still be warm. Carefully divide the whipped cream mixture, and fold into one half the chocolate sauce. Pour it into the bowl and sprinkle it with half the candied fruit. Fold the remaining diced candied fruit and the shredded chocolate into the other half of the whipped cream, and use it to fill the mold. Cover the top of the zuccotto with the remaining slices of pan di spagna, sprinkle them with a little milk, and chill for 5 hours.

Just before serving the zuccotto dip the mold in hot water. Unmold it onto a serving platter, decorate it with the perfect cherry you set aside, and serve.

Serves 6.

Semifreddo con Fragole - Chilled cream with strawberries
2 cups wild strawberries
1 cup powdered sugar
1 qt. whipped cream
4 slices pineapple
2 sheets gelatin
1 oz. orange liqueur
1 banana

Wash strawberries in cold water, dry them with paper towels and select 2 ozs. of the best-looking berries for garnish. Pass the remaining berries through a non-metallic sieve. Sift the powdered sugar into the strawberry puree, and fold in the whipped cream. Soften the gelatin in a bit of water, then dissolve it in a saucepan with the liqueur over a low flame and let cool but not set. Gradually fold the gelatin into the strawberry and cream mixture. Wrap an 8"-souffle dish with a collar made of cake cardboard (the collar should extend 2" above the edge of the dish). Pour in the strawberry and cream mixture and level off the top against the cardboard. Freeze the semifreddo for at least an hour. Remove the cardboard and garnish the dessert with the berries banana and pineapple before serving.

Serves 4.

Crespelle alla frutta dell' estate - Summer Fruit Cr�pes
Recipe for Crespelle:
1 diced banana
1 basket of strawberries
2 baskets of raspberries
1 small pot of plain yogurt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp Grand Marnier
8 crespelle

Put the fruit into a bowl adding the yoghurt, sugar and Grand Marnier, and mix well. Put some of the mixture into each cr�pe and fold over in quarters. Lay them side by side on a dish and decorate with a little fruit and mint leaves and serve at room temperature.

How to Prepare Cr�pes
2 eggs
1/2 pt milk
4 oz flour
pinch of salt

Whisk the eggs, milk, flour and salt: heat a flat pan with a little butter. Pour 3 tbsp of mixture onto the hot pan and turn the pan with a circular motion to spread the mixture evenly forming a round cr�pe. After one minute slide a wooden spatula under the cr�pe and turn it over; let it cook for a few seconds more. Slide the cr�pe onto a plate; pile them one on top of the other as they come ready. You can deep freeze any left over cr�pes wrapped in film. Makes about 15/20.


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