Storia della Cucina Italiana Ristoranti Liguria The Cooking

Liguria Liguria

Liguria

The Cooking


Liguria is the smallest Italian region with a very high population rate; also for this the Ligurian cooking is very thrifty, able to use every eatable element that the earth, sea and work of man produces. Widely used are wild plants that - given the abundance of the rain - grow luxuriantly: enough to think of the borage that in many areas today still substitute for spinach in the fillings of tortelli and in the famous “torta Pasqualina”, a savoury pie made with puff pastry and filled with leaf vegetables (chard, spinach, borage) so called because it is a traditional plate for the Easter festivities maybe because the spring is the season in which the pastures and the gardens offer a great quantity of vegetables.
The cooking is always characterised by this filling; are made up of very humble ingredients but very tasty: the leaf vegetables are mixed with aromatic herbs, cheeses, egg, pine kernels, pistachio etc. Between the aromatic plants, basil is dominant: those of Liguria have small leaves and is abundant and highly perfumed: it has many uses, above all there is the pesto alla genovese, used everywhere, a sauce for pasta so called because at one time it was made by crushing the ingredients with a stone mortar (today substituted by electrical equipment) basil, pine kernels, garlic and mature cheese.
Or let’s think of the cima (turnips) given the name genovese but used throughout Liguria and in the neighbouring areas: a stomach pouch of heifer stuffed with vegetables, ricotta cheese, pistachio, cheese, tongue and many other things, sewn and cooked in water or in the oven; a rich and tasty dish of an antique tradition, of which recipe is already found in the “Libro de arte culinaria” (Book of culinary art) by Maestro Martino whose work had many followers around the middle of the XV century. And so provided us with the recipe known as «Per ar una ventresca di vitello piena». “Piglia la pancia del vitello et fagli un bugio (= hole) nel canto (= side) tanto che tu ce pocho di pepe un pocho rotto, un pocho di zaffano, de uva passa, et un pocho de petrosello et maiorana et menta baptuta bene; et meschia tutte queste cose inseme. Et dapoi mettile in la ditta pancia, et ponila a cocere allesso, et fa’ che sia ben cotta” and also offers us the recipe for vegetable soup: «Togli de foglia di viete (= chard), et un pocha di borragine et fagli dare un boglio in acqua chiara bogliente quando le mitti dentro; dapoi cacciale fore et battile molto bene col coltello. Et togli un pocho de petrosillo, et di menta cruda, et similemente le batti co le ditte herbe. Dapoi macinale bene nel mortale, et mittlile in una pignatta con brodo grasso et falle bollire un pocho. Et se ti pare mettevi un pocho di pepe».
In this text there is also recorded the rice cake (torta di riso) that is still in use: «Lava il riso et nettalo molto bene, et fallo cocere in lacte o in bono brodo grasso tanto che sia ben cotto; et poi il cavarai fora sopra ad un tagliero et lassaralo asciucchare et pigliarai un pocho di bono cascio frescho pistato molto bene giungendovi dece bianchi d’ova, del zucchero et dell’acqua rosata. Et anchora piacendoti vi poterai mettere un pocho di lacte quanto tene un piccholo bicchieri. Et mescolato bene ogni cosa insieme la metterai bene a cocere in la padella...»
There is also the famous gattafura: «Piglinsi struccoli overo agretti (= squeezed processed cheese of an acid flavour), i quali sono casci freschi fatti d’un giorno senza sale, e quando hanno alquanto del forte sono assai meglio; pestisino nel mortaro tanto che venghino come butiro, e si mescolino con biete trite et un poco di menta battuta e pepe pisto; poi abbisi uno sfoglio di pasta e stendasi sopra il suolo di rame onto di butiro; e pongasi sopra esso foglio la composizione che non sia alta più di mezzo dito, e sopra essa composizione spargasi olio dolce i coprasi con un altro foglio sottilissimo, e facciasi cuocere nel modo sopradetto (cioè nel forno o nei testi), e servasi calda perché fredda non val niente; è ben vero che molte volte si riscaldano sopra la graticola; et in questo modo si possono fare ancora nelle tortiere».
But Ligurian cooking is recorded in many antique gastronomic texts; some have been scanned for centuries.
The art of cooking in the 1600’s boasts a text of gastronomy by the Genoan monk Francesco Fulvio Frugoni (1620-1686) of the title “Libreria de’ Gastrimargi” that well collects a panorama of gastronomic texts of the 1600’s. It refers to a catalogue of immaginary books with regard to gastronomic materials.
Between the texts of culinary art in the XVIII century, Genoan cooking appears in the very famous “Apicio Moderno” of Francesco Leonardi that provides - for example - a tasty recipe of “Bocconcetti alla genovese”. «Pestate nel mortaio un poco di scorretta di cedrato candita, aggiungeteci sei rossi d’uovi duri, zucchero a proporzione, un poco di cannella fina a tre once di midollo di manzo ben pulito; mescolate il tutto bene. Stendete una sfloglia di pasta brisè ben sottile, ovvero dei retagli di pasta sfoglia ben maneggiati, poneteci sopra diversi mucchietti della composizione suddetta, diritti, grossi come il dito mignolo e lunghi mezzo pollice, che formarete sopra la tavola con un pochino di farina; indorate all’intorno con uovo sbattuto, coprite colla medesima pasta, tagliateli con un tagliapasta da bocconotti e saldateli colle dita bene all’intorno, fateli friggere di bel colore, e serviteli spolverizzati di zucchero fine».
This is how it appears in the text “La nuova cucina economica” of the roman Vincenzo Agnolotti published for the first time in Milan in 1819. In this there is a recipe known as «Insalatina alla genovese», a way to reuse meat, fish or salami cut into cubes and spiced with capers and “cauliflower or asparagus, courgettes, string beans or any other cooked green vegetables” that would be flavoured with a dressing based on oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, ground pepper, and mustard. And it continues «mix in boiled egg cut into cubes, prawn tails and all other things such as in “cappone di galera”», a food so named because originally it was packaged on board the galleys.
Also there is provided the recipe for «Panizze alla genovese» a sort of chickpea flour, a “a soft well-cooked polenta”.
Humble and simple foods, destined to be eaten daily by the less well-off, of who followed the elaborated and rich “Timballo alla genovese”. «Abbiate delle frittatine sottili le quali taglierete ad uso di piccoli mostaccioletti, poneteli in un poco di besciamella dentro una cazzarola e fate stringere al fuoco la composizione, mettendovi, nell’atto di levarla dal fuoco, un pezzo di butirro, due pugni di parmegiano grattato ed un poco di canella in polvere. Quando sarà fredda, uniteci quattro o cinque uova sbattute e versate la composizione dentro una cazzarola bene imbutirrata e spolverizzata di pane grattato; fate cuocere il timballo ad un forno temperato e servitelo con sopra un’idea di culì».

Many are recipes “of the land” surviving through the centuries, from the troffie pasta with pesto, farinata, the genovese tripe which is more delicate in respect to the other regions of Italy because it is enriched with mushrooms and pine kernels, to «pansotti» principally a stuffing made from vegetables cooked in the oven, eaten with a very simple nut sauce.
There is also “sea” cooking. Seafood cooking with fish and shellfish from deep rocks like that of the Gulf of Liguria. Blue fish such as anchovies, the limonetti and the splendid whitebait, or others such as the moonfish, the saragli and bass. Also shellfish like the magnificent red prawns of Santa Margherita and Porto Maurizio and the “batti-batti” of La Spezia (a type of lobster so called because they beat their claws on the rocks).
Ligurian cooking has been added to by external contributions as, in the course of the centuries, the commerce activated by the Marine Republic of Genoa, introduced the use of foods such as the stoccafisso (stockfish) and the baccalà (dried salted cod), produced in far away countries but gave life to multiple dishes of a strong taste like the so-called “Buridda”.
The nearness to France contributed to an exchange of which we find traces here and there. Traces and signs that animate all the south-west of Europe: in fact it is incredible how many recurring gastronomic elements can be found between the cooking of Liguria, and that of Catalan, of Provence, and Portugal. The fish “par excellence” is that preserved: the blue, or cod, packaged and wisely handled.
Genoa in the history of our country and in the world has had a protagonist role on the first level. Its importance as a city-port, the port was the crossroads of culture, arte and also, consequently of economic wellbeing, queen of the table. The Renassiance is certainly the period of maximum splendour: in Genoa there were businesses of every kind even the corporation of the “Maccheroni”, Genoan cooks were already the most famous of their times and were in demand in various cities of Italy with the ability to enrich this cooking with different experiences. The stockfish and the dried salt cod, for example, in Liguria has a thousands uses and recipes even if their place of origin is from distant countries.
The authentic Ligurian cooking began to be developed after the 1700’s, well enough deprived of the massive influence of the French, it managed to maintain its precise mediterranean character. The sauces prepared in the mortar are of Saracen influence (pesto, nut salsa) and it is only in this period that tomatoes appeared for the first time. This richness of changing products became united with an infinite range of products from the land, that, thanks to the humid mircoclimate exceptional for north Italy, created a variety of vegetables and fruit that contained nearly all of the cultivable land.
The principal Ligurian recipes are:
First course; troffie pasta with pesto, trenette pasta avvantagiae (pesto, potatoes and french beans), testatori al pesto (toasted pasta dish - at one time on the “testi” (baking trays) and for this reason they are called “testatori” or “testaroli - and pesto), pansotti (ravioli di magro) with nut salsa, ravioli al ragù di funghi (ravioli with meat and mushroom sauce), minestrone alla genovese (Genoan vegetable soup), minestra di bianchetti (whitebait), minestra di lattuga (stuffed lettuce leaves), risotto di carciofi (artichokes), risotto con asparagi (rice with asparagus), zuppa di ceci (chickpea soup).
Second course: coniglio con le olive (rabbit with olives), stoccafissa accomodato (stockfish), burrida di stoccafissa, mackerel con piselli, cima alla ligure ripiena (stuffed turnip tops), coda di stoccafisso ripiena (stuffed tail of), pesce al forno con patate e pinoli (oven cooked fish with potatoes and pine kernels), con patate e carciofi, con patate e asparagi, bianchetti con carciofi, calamari ripieni, zimin di cuttlefish, vitello all’uccelletto con carciofi.
Various dishes: torta Pasqualina (Easter savoury cake), frittatina con bianchetti (crepes), tomaxelle, torta di verdure (vegetable quiche) farinata di ceci, farinata di grano, cappon magro (lean capon).
Sweets: panettone genovese (Genoan yeast cake), amaretti di Sassello, torto di zucca (Pumpkin cake), budino alle uova (egg custard).
The dishes cited are only some examples of the rich range of proposals and varieties that the cooking of Liguria can offer. Dishes realised with many various elements that reflect the history and the geographic position of this land, like the strong, hard-working and thrifty character of its inhabitants. Ligurian recipes in fact are all very tasty, and elaborated in a less expensive way because their “pathos” derives from the perfumes of the herbs used in good quantity and side dishes that are strengthened by the richness of the vegetables knowingly cooked.


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