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The pastas of Liguria

The pastas of Liguria

by Great Italian Chefs 29 May 2019

Liguria is home to some of Italy’s most recognisable pasta shapes and dishes, including ravioli and pasta al pesto Genovese. Dig into Liguria’s pasta history and find out more about some of the unique pastas that await you on the beautiful Italian Riviera.


Most of us venture to Bologna and Modena on our pasta pilgrimages, but Liguria has just as long a history with this Italian staple. Emilia-Romagna may boast tortellini, for example, but Liguria is the proud birthplace of ravioli – an equally important part of Italy’s pasta tradition. It’s also the home of Italy’s commercial pasta industry; the Agnesi family (famously the first Italian family to start making pasta commercially) opened their very first factory in the beautiful Ligurian town of Pontedassio. These days of course, dried pasta is a multi-million euro industry – but it all started in Liguria.

Ligurian pasta dishes aren’t just about the unique, traditional pastas on show; they’re also about the sauces. Pesto Genovese may well be the most widely eaten and popular pasta sauce in the world – the simple combination of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan and pecorino makes a gorgeous, grainy sauce full of umami flavour. Salsa di noci (walnut sauce), made with walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, white bread and milk, is also a common and much-loved accompaniment to filled and flat pastas alike.

Wherever you decide to visit in Liguria, you can be sure to find some excellent pasta. Here are a few of the more unique pastas you can expect to find in this beautiful coastal region.

Pansotti

Pansotti are ravioli’s triangular cousins. They’re traditionally stuffed with wild herbs and greens like dandelion, rocket and chard, along with a local prescinsêua cheese (a soft, sour cheese with a yoghurt-like consistency), but a classic spinach and ricotta filling is equally common. Sometimes they’re folded into a napkin shape, sometimes they’re cut deliberately into triangles, but they’re almost always served with the region’s famous walnut sauce, which brings the fresh, grassy notes out of the filling. Pansotti likely comes from the Ligurian word ‘pansa’, meaning belly – probably a sign that your pansotti should have a generous paunch on them!

Trofie

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These little hand-rolled pasta twists are typical of Liguria, originating from the villages along the coast. Traditionally trofie dough is made with boiling water, flour and salt – no eggs – and then small pinches of dough are rolled diagonally with the side of the hand to form that classic twisted shape. Trofie al pesto is one of Liguria’s most famous dishes – the trofie are rolled out, boiled, and mixed with green beans, diced potato and a classic pesto Genovese.

Corzetti

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Corzetti are pasta coins, essentially, cut out from a pasta sheet, then stamped with a logo. They have their origins in Genoa around 1250AD when Genovese gold coins (also called corzetti) were in circulation; the pasta corzetti mimicked the currency. First they were stamped with the crusader cross, then noble houses began to stamp their own heraldry onto corzetti at feasts. Aside from giving the pasta an attractive pattern, the stamp also provides lots of nooks and crannies to hold extra sauce. Most trattorie in Genoa and beyond serve corzetti as a simple dish with walnut sauce or crema ai pinoli – a sauce of pine nuts, garlic, butter and fresh marjoram.

Mandilli de saea

These thin, silky sheets of pasta are named mandilli de saea in Genovese dialect (or sometimes fazzoletti di seta in Italian) – both of which mean ‘silk handkerchief’. Egg pasta is rolled out like a lasagna sheet, but to almost veil-like thinness so it floats on top of the sauce – normally a classic pesto Genovese – draping itself like a silk handkerchief, hence the name! This is a little harder to find than the pasta dishes above – it’s very specific and unique to Liguria and definitely worth looking out for on your travels.

Trenette

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Trenette is easily mistaken for linguine, but it’s ever so slightly wider (consider it a middle ground between linguine and fettuccine). Although the difference is negligible – the width of the pasta slightly affects the amount of sauce it holds – trenette is almost impossible to find outside of Liguria, where it is normally sold dried in packets. Trenette is normally served with, you guessed it, pesto Genovese, complete with green beans and diced potato.

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