Posted by: tomciocco | September 23, 2010


Fairly or otherwise, Ligurians have a reputation for being intensely frugal, or as my old dad used to say they’re folk with “short arms and deep pockets”. Theories abound as to why this warm and sunny and mountainous crescent of land is known for such parsimony. The usual explanations boil down to the Ligurians being tough sailors and fishermen from a place that despite its relatively sweet climate, is rocky, infertile, and very vertical, making large-scale farming almost impossible, driving them to the sea for a great deal of what passes their lips, and forcing them to make the most of what the land does give them…

While this is certainly not all of what makes the Ligurians a bit tighter-fisted than their neighbors, it makes for a pretty good start, and the story continues with pesto alla genovese being held up as the perfect culinary embodiment of Ligurian thrift. Made up of just a few handfuls of leaves from a plant that grows like a weed, some garlic,  half a handful of pine nuts (which DO grow on trees ALL OVER Liguria), several tablespoons of cheese, and local oil enough to make it all a dense cream after arranging a meeting with the ingredients, a mortar and pestle and some elbow grease: maximally-flavored ingredients heavily worked together to release as much flavor as the parts can yield. This is frugality writ large.

And with the Summer now officially done, I felt it time to cull a few basil plants and with the rest of the cast, pound the snot out of them in my ceramic mortar and pestle…I hear the question in your head: “Can I make this in the food processor”? Crap. If you MUST, yes, but the violent chopping action of a food processor yields a less delicately flavored product with an inferior texture. Besides, using a mortar and pestle is more frugal…I threw this over my favorite imported gnocchi – which were on sale…And continuing down Thrifty Lane, I made an ex-fridge frittata with a bit of leftover pastasciutta with tomato meat sauce and a few chick peas and some parsley that was in there too, with toasted whole wheat Italian bread from the freezer for crunch.

The wine I always serve with pesto, if it’s at hand, is Pigato. It’s not the only wine that will work, but it is still the best, and surprise, surprise, it’s Ligurian too…



Cascina Feipu` dei Massaretti Pigato di Liguria di Ponente 2008

Slightly greenish bright pale golden color. The nose shows aromas of cream soda, yellow cherries, hazelnut, hay, citron, and a touch of floral perfume. In the mouth the wine is moderately fat and round, but with a tart core, and balanced flavors of herbs, minerals, white peach juice, boiled corn, and marzipan. It finishes with a wonderful clean complexity.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: