If you’d like to sample some of Italy’s tastiest foods then make sure you try these 9 traditional dishes from Genoa.
Genoa, in the Liguria region, is often passed over as a culinary spot but some of Italy‘s best dishes come from Genoa.
Today Enrica Monzani and I chatted about the genovese cuisine. No one knows genovese cuisine better than Enrica. She’s a multi- generational genovese native and runs a cooking school right in the city center that features the very best traditional dishes from Genoa. She features recipes she learned from her mom and her genovese grandparents on both sides of the family.
Enrica shared 9 traditional dishes from Genoa with me:
Pesto Genovese, Genoa’s signature dish
Pesto Genovese is probably the best known recipe worldwide that Genoa lays claim to. The recipe in its present form is relatively recent and dates back to the late 1800s. The recipe originated in the middle ages first as an olive oil and garlic sauce and over time different ingredients were added to the recipe: nuts, then cheese, then different herbs and then basil.
The best way to make pesto Genovese is with a mortar and pestle. These days a lot of home cooks use immersion blenders instead. Pesto Genovese is a Genoa staple and locals have it several times a week.
Focaccia, a delicious local flatbread unique to Genoa
Genoa has a wonderful flat bread, a focaccia, that’s quite different from other focaccia you’ll find elsewhere Italy. It’s 1 to 2 cm high, deliciously crisp on the outside and its many dimples on the surface are filled with a delightful creaminess thanks to a salty brine that’s brushed on the focaccia just before baking.
It’s one of Genoa’s oldest recipes and dates back to medieval times. Locals eat this focaccia all day long: they have it for breakfast and dip it in their cappuccino, genovesi have it for a snack during the day and they serve it for an aperitivo with sparkling wine: focaccia vinello.
Tocco is Genoa’s version of a ragù
Almost every area of Italy has its own version of a meat sauce, or a ragù. Genoa’s meat sauce, tocco or ‘u tuccu in Ligurian dialect, is quite different. Rather than using ground meat in the sauce it’s made with a single cut of beef slow cooked for 2 to 4 hours. When the sauce is done the meat is served as a main course. The remaining delicious brothy sauce is then used as a pasta sauce.
Farinata savory flat cake: a street food favorite in Genoa
Farinata is an ancient Genoa street food made from chickpea flour. It’s a flat savory cake – almost like a pancake – typical in Genoa and throughout the Liguria region. Farinata is baked in huge copper pans in wood ovens.
Gobeletti are delicious shortbread filled with jam, usually apricot, that are often served at Christmas but also year-round. They are small, cup-shaped and delicious!
Three traditional holiday dishes
Natalini Christmas macaroni
Natalini are long macaroni, about 20 cm (8 inches) long. They’re served at Christmas, as the name implies – Natale is the Italian word for Christmas – in a chicken or meat broth. Tiny sausage meatballs are also added to the broth.
Pandolce Christmas cake
Pandolce dates back to the 1600s and is the classic holiday dessert you find on every Genovese Christmas table. It’s filled with raisins, pine-nuts and candied citrus fruit.
Just before baking the pandolce a triangle is imprinted on the cake surface that represents the holy trinity. Bay leaves are put in the cake to bring good luck.
When the cake is served the youngest at the table slices the first slice. It’s served to the hostess who prepared the cake so she can make sure that the cake is delicious enough to serve her guests. The second slice is served to the oldest guest at the table and then the third slice is set aside for the first needy person who comes to the door and asks for food. Only then everyone else is served.
Anicini Christmas biscotti
Anicini are another Christmas dessert: biscotti made with whipped eggs and anise. As with classic biscotti (cantucci) anicini are dipped in sweet wine: Sciacchetra, a Ligurian sweet white passito wine.
Bugie Sweet Fritters
Bugie are made with bitter orange blossom water.
Bitter orange blossom water is a typical Ligurian flavor that’s used in many local recipes. Enrica recently co-authored a book about these bitter oranges, their cultivation, history and culinary uses. Her book features some of the traditional recipes that use bitter orange blossom water like sweet fritters (bugie).
If you’re interested in a cooking class featuring the best traditional dishes in Genoa, or a culinary walking tour of Genoa then Enrica has you covered!
Everything is listed on her website, A Small Kitchen in Genoa.
Enrica offers in person cooking classes that start with a market tour at Genoa’s fabulous Mercato Orientale.
She offers online classes through platforms like zoom, and also offers downloadable cooking classes.
Genoa Food Tour
If you join Enrica’s Genoa Food Tour you’ll visit Genoa’s wonderful food market, taste fabulous street food and visit Enrica’s top pick food spots in Genoa.
Lots of Recipes
Enrica’s website is full of wonderful recipes that feature the best traditional dishes in Genoa, and other recipes from the Liguria region.
More about Liguria
If you’re interested in learning more about Liguria make sure you catch both of these podcast episodes and blog posts about the region.
Other Food Stuff to do in Italy
I make a small commission on purchases made through links on my website. Prices are identical for you, but purchasing through my links helps support my work to bring you great recipes, podcast episodes, culinary and travel information.