The Ligurian, by nature solitary and private, also posseses an innate stinginess. Although frequently subject to ironic comments, such parsimony comes from the prudence of those who for centuries
have had to produce their food from the tiny strips of land available between the sea and the mountains. This land, however, produces the most flavorful basil, exceptional olive oil, and due to
the richness of algae and strong currents, the tastiest fish.
Ligurian cooking is dense with flavors and aromas, resulting from combinations rather than mixtures. A sublime example is the "cappon magro" or thin capon. It's a laborious construction in the form of a pyramid made up of six or seven types of both fish and vegetables cooked separately and then built layer by layer on a base of crackers and covered with a rich sauce based on olive oil and anchovies. The decoration of the dish is elaborate, slices of hard-boiled eggs, madallions of lobster, large shrimp, oysters and other fruits of the sea.
Apart from that, Ligurian cooking is basically very simple. The element of Ligurian cooking is olive oil that comes from those tortured trees clinging to the hills that fall almost perpendicular to the sea. The trattorias along the coast serve the typical fish soup called "ciuppin" which is served in two dishes, one with a strong flavorful broth with thick bread, in the other the fish, shrimps, and octopus that contributed to the broth. Fruits of the sea are cooked simply with oil, parsley, garlic, pepper and white wine, and were considered so exquisite that in 1154 Emperor Federico Barbarossa, after awarding the crown of marquis to a noble from Genoa, ordered a shipment twice a year of a basket full of shellfish.
Ligurians love vegetables and aromatic herbs. Zucchini, onions, eggplants, green peppers are all cooked in the oven, enriched with bread crumbs, cheese, and flavors of garlic and herbs, dominated by marjoram. Tomato sauce is practically ignored here, substituted by the strong flavor of "pesto": made from basil, garlic, parmigiano, pecorino, pine nuts and sea salt, ground in a mortar and diluted with olive oil. It's only made in Liguria, and adapts itself to all kind of pasta and even enriches a good vegetable minestrone with a spoonful.
"Torta pasqualina" (pasqualina cake) is not a dessert because it is made with eighteen layers of light pasta spread with oil and stuffed with ricotta cheese, the season's vegetables and whole eggs. Pastry is used to make pies of artichokes, biete. onions and parmesan cheese, and there's also the exquisite anchovy cake, also called "torta marinara" in honor of all those delicacies that sailors dreamed of eating on their homecoming.
Except for Christmas panettone Genoa does not boast many famous desserts, but their are candy and pastry shops, one of which, Romanengo, has been in Via Roma for 150 years, selling refined boxes of candied fruits which the aristocrats love to eat with their after-dinner coffee. Easter eggs in white or pink sugar are filled with sugared almonds. The Dukes of Windsor, considered by some the most romantic couple in the world considering that the king renounced his throne for the woman he loved, requested shipments of Romanengo's marron glace's surrounded by candied violets wherever they were staying.