Genoa: eating and drinking


The cuisine of Genoa is based on traditional Mediterranean cooking. It is very rich in ingredients and flavors, and often very labor-intensive. The Ligurians use very simple ingredients, which by themselves seem insignificant, but when combined together, they truly accentuate and bring out each ingredient's individual qualities to produce a final result of superb flavor harmony: mushrooms, pine nuts, walnuts, and a great variety of aromatic herbs.

At the base of all recipes is Ligurian olive oil, delicately flavored and perfect for preparing tasty sauces. The most famous of these is pesto, a sauce made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. The best choice to accompany meat dishes is "salsa verde" (green sauce), made of parsley and pine nuts, while salsa di noci (walnut sauce) goes perfectly with pasta and ravioli.

Different kinds of focacce and torte salate (a kind of vegetable and cheese pie) are characteristically Genoese treats. These dishes are eaten both as meals and as appetizing snacks: from the simple focaccia all'olio (focaccia with olive oil) to focaccia filled with cheese, no one can resist the tempting smell of this Ligurian specialty! You can't leave without having tried the farinata, a unique kind of focaccia made from chick-pea flour.

Among the primi piatti (main courses), there are different kinds of pasta, flavored with the famous pesto or with meat juices, for example, troffie, trenette, and taglierini. One must-try from Ligurian cuisine is pansotti, huge ravioli stuffed with vegetables and herbs, and excellent with walnut sauce.

Among the various meat dishes, one of the most distinctive is tomaselle, veal roulades filled with meat, eggs, and aromatic herbs. Don't forget to try lamb stew with carciofi (artichokes). One quintessentially Genoese dish is the cima, a pocket of pancetta stuffed with various ingredients, then served cold, in slices. Mushrooms are featured in the cuisine of the Ligurian hinterlands, flavoring meat dishes and complementing fish dishes as well.

Fish truly occupies an honored place on the menus of Genoese restaurants. A true masterpiece of Ligurian cuisine is the cappon magro: a very elaborate dish made of various kinds of fish and boiled vegetables, and seasoned with a sauce of herbs and pine nuts.

Other popular recipes are the fritto misto (mixed deep-fried seafood), l'insalata di pesce (seafood salad), triglie (mullet) alle genovese, stoccafisso in agrodolce (cod in sweet and sour sauce), with pine nuts and raisins. Mussels are omnipresent, alla marinara or stuffed with meat, cheese, eggs, or marjoram. Finally, the queen of the Ligurian sea; the anchovy, which can be eaten cold, but is best when stuffed.

Among the desserts, one of the most distinctive is "pandolce", a treat found on every table at Christmastime. Genoa is famous for its pastries: Canestrelli, amaretti, Baci di Dama (little walnut pastries), and Gobeletti, little short breads filled with quince jam.