The menu of the Christmas Holidays in Liguria
A gargantuan lunch has always been prepared on December 25th in the homes and restaurants of Liguria.
If you decide to spend the Christmas Holidays in Genoa and in Liguria, you must know that gastronomy is certainly part of the festive atmosphere. Always traditionalists, the Ligurians have some firm points regarding the holy days and some recipes that cannot be ignored. If you happen to read the famous poem by Nicolò Bacigalupo (a Genoese poet) on the Christmas lunch of the Genoese people, you will notice that he mentions a long list of foods, including the “maccaroin de Natale in broddo”, the “Cappon boggîo”. The famous pin-ne lettuces were and still are very fashionable. In many houses, the menu was more modest. In addition to the natalini (longer and thicker than those on the market today) in capon broth, you must try the roast turkey (bibbin a rosto) and the Chiavari roots, long and bitter, considered a sort of remedy against ingested fatty foods. And then the Cappon Magro, a sumptuous fish-based dish that is prepared on Christmas Eve but that you can enjoy in the best places practically during all the holidays until Epiphany. Fortunately, you will discover that many of these recipes have been taken up by the most famous restaurants, which have been offering Christmas lunch for some years now, meeting with increasing success.
I Natalini in brodo
As you can imagine, “natalini” are a particular type of pasta: smooth macaroni no more than 20 centimeters long, called “Natalini” precisely because they are typical of this time of year. They have “come back” in recent years, even in restaurants. The secret is of course the capon broth, in which you will have fun “catching” the natalini, tripe, cardoon and sausage with a spoon.
Sua maestà il Cappon Magro
Already in past centuries, Cappon Magro was the dish with which noble Genoese families respected the precept of abstinence from meat, required by the indications of the Catholic religion, still being able to enjoy a truly tasty dish. Today, if you want the best at the table, throughout all Liguria you will find this dish in first place among the Christmas must-haves, in restaurants. You will be surprised by the beauty of the composition, very often baroque and left to the creativity of the chef. Like so many gifts for the palate, gurnard fish or sea bream, whitebait, scampi or prawns, lobster and optional oysters will delight you with their balance. But the surprise is the terroir touch, because opening the casket of this gastronomic treasure you will find green beans, zucchini, salsify, carrots, potatoes, beetroot, cauliflower, in a tasty sea in which the extra virgin olive oil is enhanced with the famous green-sauce based on parsley, pine nuts, capers, salted anchovies, hard-boiled eggs, breadcrumbs, olives and garlic.
Pandolce, quando “lievita” il Natale
More than a tradition, tasting Genoese Pandolce will feel like waving a gastronomic flag: a symbol of Genoa like the Lanterna. And like the Lanterna it has remained the same for many centuries: natural leavening, candied fruit chosen from among the best products, raisins from Smyrna, pine nuts from Pisa. Simple in its preparation and at the same time rich in ingredients, when you taste it you must remember that until the last century it was very often prepared in homes and the Genoese, generation after generation, handed down the family recipe: with or without walnuts, with pine nuts, with one type of candy instead of another, in every house there was a different dessert. The “mother yeast” was also handed down, an indispensable ingredient for making pandolce grow. Today times have changed, but the tradition remains very much alive. You can buy pandolce in patisseries and bakeries.
La spongata a levante
If you happen to pass through the province of La Spezia, between the city, the Cinque Terre and the Sarzana area, you will discover this very ancient dessert, it is said that the Romans (sponga) and then the Etruscans already prepared it. The name “spongata” probably derives from spongia, sponge, due to the spongy and irregular appearance of its surface, or a particular shortcrust pastry (some also use shortcrust pastry) with wine or liqueur inside. There are several variations of spongata: some put quince jam, some fig jam, some just honey, I used fig jam.
La cubaita a ponente
If you have chosen the mild and beautiful Riviera dei Fiori for a Christmas holiday, do not forget to taste the cubaita, a typical dessert of Triora and Isolabona, but present to a certain extent throughout the province of Imperia. It is a sort of nougat and is everyone’s festive dessert thanks to its ingredients, available or easily found in the agro-pastoral environment of our valleys. The recipe is simple: two wafers enclose a filling of hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds in variable proportions according to the altitude of the town. Everything is held together by honey which was the sweetener available to everyone, unlike sugar which could only be purchased by the wealthiest.