Seasonal Feasts: Summer in Liguria

Summer brings with it many things, not only longer evenings and a more laid back attitude, but an abundance of fruits and vegetables at their absolute freshest. Liguria and the Italian Riviera boast some incredible culinary exports (see our article on arguably the most famous Pesto Genovese here), which can all be prepared with seasonal ingredients to create an amazing summer spread. Read on for the history of some of Liguria's most famous creations and some summer feast inspiration straight from the tables of the Italian Riviera.

Minestrone

Like many cucina povera dishes, there are as many versions of this classic soup as there are families in Italy, and the final product really depends on the ingredients available to you. It is said that soldiers from The Republic of Genoa serving in the First Crusade would make a soup in their helmets seasoned with vegetables and herbs from the locals. Although we can’t confirm the truth of this story, it lends itself to the infinite variations of this classic dish.

In Summer, this soup deserves a lighter touch. The broth should be light and flavoursome and you can substitute orzo for the more traditional rice or potatoes. Celery, a classic component, is at its best this time of year and is perfectly complemented by the addition of zucchini or any other seasonal vegetables you can get your hands on.

Focaccia

It’s generally agreed that focaccia originated with the Etruscans of Northern Italy before the formation of the Roman Empire, although some argue that it was created in Ancient Greece. Unleavened flatbreads have been made throughout history, however, focaccia differs in the fact that the loaf rises slightly, giving it that incredible texture. Although we seldom want to even think about turning the oven on during the warmer months, the mere thought of the smell of baking bread is enough to bear the heat for a while.

An incredibly versatile bread, Focaccia can be baked with many different ingredients, lending their flavours or textures to the overall taste. This means Focaccia is great when baked with seasonal vegetables like red onion or zucchini for a hearty lunch, or served as a side dish topped with rosemary. For a quick snack, simply sprinkle with sea salt!

Ravioli alla Genovese

Ravioli dates back to the 14th Century, where the stuffed pasta is mentioned in prominent Prato merchant, Francesco di Marco Datini’s personal letters. Ravioli alla Genovese is often cooked with minced veal, and as such, reserved for celebratory meals. According to many Ligurian cooks, what separates Ravioli alla Genovese from other ravioli is the addition of marjoram, closely related to oregano. This gives it a sweet pine flavour, evocative of Pesto Genovese, arguably Liguria’s most famous culinary export.