I have visited Italy on many occasions but was excited to take a trip to the most north eastern part of Italy known as the Italian Riviera. Famed for its celebrity resorts such as Portofino, my trip was all together grittier visiting traditional farms and regional food and wine producers. Happy days ahead!
The most north eastern part of Italy known as the Italian Riviera
This is the area of the world that bought us perfect pesto. A pasta life committed to Bolognese and Carbonara changed in the early 1990’s when pesto hit our shops. In Liguria however the first recipe dates back to the 1860’s so the perfect place to start was a basil farm situated on the outskirts of the region’s capital Genoa.
Albert Sacco and his family have been growing basil since 1851, their organic methods haven’t changed over time with all basil still being hand picked. After showing us the vibrant aromatic rows of basil, in the company of mother and grandmother he treated us to some home made pesto. A simple recipe of basil, garlic, pine nuts, local Ligurian olive oil, parmesan cheese and some pecorino cheese – utterly delicious and fragrant. A million miles from the jars of runny gloop sold in the UK, this home made home grown sauce was a true delight.
The region of Liguria stretches in a boomerang shape along the top left coast of Italy. With a stunning coastline and mountains to the back of the region, it is surprising that there are large number of wine producers on the French/Italian border. Buzzing from my pesto paradise I headed up the hills to visit one of these producers and to taste something different to Italy’s more well known Pinot or Chianti wines. I met Filippo Rondelli who took over his family vineyard and guest house Terre Bianche in the late 1990’s.
High in the mountains over looking the French border, he took me round the vineyards pointing out the chalky soil and explained how these battered slopes were an ideal home for the Rossesse grape which thrives off the mild temperature and winds. His wines are predominantly red, earthy, fruity wines, the Rossesse di Dolceaqua received DOC recognition in 1972 and was allegedly favoured by Pope Paul 111 who enjoyed it daily with soup!
To my mind it works best with the traditional Ligurian cuisine, hearty, fresh, seasonal and authentic. Tasting of the earth and sea, blending these two elements together reflecting the land of Liguria through its gastronomy and wine.
This is a cuisine which is steeped in tradition and which sums up the region. I look forward to coming back and being tempted to do this.