Two Dishes From Liguria

Liguria is a  northwest region of Italy that curves along the coast, above Corsica, with France to the west and the city of  Genoa at its heart.  Here I offer two lovely , relatively simple dishes from this region, which go well together.  I had the new experience of cooking fresh garbanzo beans and having to remove the pale little peels once they were cooked — a bit laborious, but really, these are so much better than canned chickpeas.  And since A.J.’s didn’t have fresh porcini mushrooms, I had to use dried, but it worked out fine, although if I ever see fresh porcini, I will snatch them up and make this recipe again.

Ceci a Zimino Chickpeas in Zimino Sauce

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas (about 1/2 lb.) picked over and soaked in water to cover overnight.
  • 3/4 lb beets, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, with the juices included.
  • Salt to taste

1)  Drain the chickpeas from their soaking water and place in a medium size saucepan with several inches of water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium high heat until soft but not breaking apart, about 3 hours, uncovered or partially covered.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the chickpea cooking water.  Set the chickpeas aside after gently rubbing off as much of their thin white skins as possible.

2)  Place the whole, unpeeled beets, with 1 inch of their stems, in a medium size pot of water to cover and bring to a boil.  Let boil until easily pierced with a  skewer, about 45 minutes.  Drain, trim off stem, peel, and dice.  Set aside.

3)  In a large nonreactive skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat, then cook the onion and celery until softened, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Reduce the heat to medium low, add the tomato paste and tomatoes with their juices, and cook until some of the water has evaporated, about 10 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the chickpeas and their reserved liquid and cook another 10 minutes.  Add the beets and cook until heated through, an additional 10 minutes, seasoning with salt.  Gently turn several times to mix the ingredients and serve.

The preceding recipe is from Clifford A Wright’s Mediterranean Feast as is the following recipe:

Tagliarini con Funghi Porcini alla Ligure Taglariani pasta with Porcini Mushrooms, Liguria style

Of course, we gluten free folks have to make do with the best pasta we can find that approximates the “real” Italian thing, but those of you who are not gf can try to find tagliarini which is a pasta in between the size of capellini and spaghettini.  — I didn’t know there was anything smaller than spaghettini!  So  much to learn, so little time . . . . but I am so enjoying my cooking these days.

  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled (not cut)
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 large ripe tomato (about 1/2 lb.) peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 lb. porcini mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced (or two 5 oz packs of dried porcini mushrooms.)
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbs. dry white or rose wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  • Dried pasta, enough  for four people

1)  If using dried porcini mushrooms, soak them in warm water for 15 minutes and drain, reserving some of the liquid for adding to the sauce later if it requires liquid. (see step 2)

2)   In a skillet, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat with the butter and garlic until the butter melts.  Add the parsley and oregano and stir. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until dense, about 30 minutes, adding small amounts of water (or porcini liquid)  if necessary to keep it from getting too thick.

2)  Meanwhile, in another skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat and cook the porcini, seasoned with salt and pepper, until the greener parts of the porcini look like they are melting, about 6-8 minutes. (In the case of the dried porcini, don’t worry about the “green,” just cook them about 6 minutes). Deglaze the skillet by pouring in the wine and scraping the bottom.  Transfer the porcini to the first skillet and correct the seasoning.

4)  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a vigorous boil and add the pasta.  Cook until al dente and drain well.  Mix the pasta with half the Parmigiano-Reggiano and half the sauce.  Transfer to a serving platter and pour the remaining sauce over it and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.


About tamisrenteria

Tamis Renteria, author and anthropologist, writes novels and short stories about people struggling with different religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions. She lives with her husband and youngest son in Tucson, Arizona where she types on a Mac, cooks ethnic food, and gardens among the sahuaros.
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