Kicking off Festival Season in the Italian Riviera
Italy's best kept food secret is the "sagra", a festival organized to show off the typical enogastronomic products of a particular area. During the second week of May the "Sagra del Pesce" is held in Camogli, a stunning seaside village south of Genova on the Ligurian coast, also known as the Italian Riviera. This week we pay homage to the coastal ingredients and spirit of this beautiful region and perhaps remember some of our own summer getaways and beachside picnics.
Trenette al Pesto alla Genovese
Pasta with fresh basil and pine nut pesto, string beans and potatoes
Baked halibut with roasted vegetables
Rucola con Limone Candito
Arugula, castelvetrano green olives and candied lemon salad
Panna Cotta e Frutti di Bosco
Molded cream with mixed spring berries
Featured wine: Guado Al Tasso Vermentino 2019
Vermentino is Italy's sleek and sexy seaside white wine. We think this week's selection from Guado Al Tasso is one of the best -- medium-bodied, fresh and quite round, with a floral aftertaste. That freshness is the result of the natural lively acidity of the Vermentino grape, which provides balance as well as a marvelous affinity for pairing with a variety of foods. From simple fish and veggie dishes to pesto pasta and fresh mozzarella salad. Read more...
Italy’s best kept food secret is the “sagra” – a festival organized to show off the typical enogastronomic products of a particular area. During the second week of May, the “Sagra del Pesce” is held in Camogli, a stunning seaside village south of Genova on the Ligurian coast, also known as the Italian Riviera. People come from all over Italy and joyfully wait in long lines to enjoy freshly caught anchovies and sardines fried in the world’s largest frying pan. After grabbing the fish, the next decision is where to eat it. Most festival goers head to the beach and eat with their toes in the sand. This has us starting to think about summer getaways and beachside picnics for sure!
The Italian Riviera is a narrow stretch of land south of the Franco-Italian border, between the Ligurian Sea and the mountains, very rich in natural resources. The fish from the sea combined with the herbs and vegetables from the land, result in a cuisine that is considered by many connoisseurs of Italian food to be amongst the best. Because much of the fish from the Mediterranean waters are unobtainable outside the area, Ligurian fish dishes tend to be difficult to imitate in other countries. Many herbs are used in Ligurian dishes, but the best known is sweet Genovese basil and mild Ligurian olive oil, used as foundations for “pesto al basilico.”
Our first dish is one of the most beloved – trenette al pesto – a linguine-type pasta tossed with pesto, green beans and potatoes. Pesto al basilico is made by combining basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and pecorino cheese in just the right proportions. The ingredients are pounded together to make a thick paste, using a pestle – hence the name pesto. The most important thing to remember here is NOT to expose the pesto to too much heat or it will turn brown. The pasta is tossed with the sauce and vegetables away from the stove, so don’t expect it to be piping hot. In other words, please do not reheat it at home – rather enjoy it at room temperature.
The next two dishes highlight the fresh flavors and produce of the region. Though not widely eaten in Liguria, our halibut is from a small fishing company outside of Boston, so it is extremely fresh. We prepare it, as most Italians do, very simply to enjoy the freshness of the fish. We roast it with spring vegetables and fragrant fresh herbs. The salad of baby arugula and candied lemon also showcases the citrus, produce and olive oil so widely used in the region.
Panna Cotta is a “cooked cream” of sweetened heavy cream thickened with gelatin and molded. Said to have originated in Northern Italy in the late 1800s, we thought it a befitting finale to our light Ligurian repast.
To this day, Italian Riviera cuisine relies heavily on local ingredients. There is no better way to enjoy the distinctive culinary specialties of each region while rubbing shoulders with the locals than to experience an Italian sagra. Although there are many sagre throughout the whole year, they are more widespread during the warm cultivating season. You cannot travel to Italy in the summer without seeing colorful posters advertising festivals.
Today we are on Italy’s beautiful northwestern seaside – tomorrow who knows where? Stay tuned 😊