Once a powerful maritime republic, Genova [Genoa in English] today is a port of call for cruise ships; a hub for ferries to Sardegna, Sicilia, and other Mediterranean islands; and usually a quick stopover for travelers on their way to Cinque Terre. But don’t let its unassuming nature fool you: from pesto to focaccia, farinata to fresh frutti di mare [seafood], Genova is a must-eat for Italian foodophiles.
The City of Genova maintains a registry of botteghe storiche [historical, or old-world shops], as do the cities of Firenze [Florence] and Roma [Rome]. These botteghe must be at least 70 years old and meet several technical requirements in order to be included on the registry. One of these botteghe is Sa Pésta, a trattoria that has been serving food since 1889. The name “Sa Pésta” means sale pestato, ground salt in Genovese dialect. Before it was a trattoria, Sa Pésta was a storage and distribution center for one of the most precious resources of the ancient world: il sale [salt].
Sa Pésta has long since stopped slinging salt. These days, it stays in business by serving a variety of traditional Ligurian dishes, from torta di bietole [chard pie], torta di carciofi [artichoke pie], and farinata, a mush made from farina di ceci [chickpea flour] which is baked in a gigantic copper pan and served crispy.
Farinata is somewhat similar to baked cornmeal mush, except that the main ingredient, ground ceci [chickpeas], has a finer texture than cornmeal. The unleavened batter develops a characteristic crackled top from the high oven heat. Since the mush does not rise when baked, la farinata is often stuffed with a variety of ingredients.
farinata farcita con stracchino farinata stuffed with stracchino cheese
farinata farcita con salsiccia farinata stuffed with sausages
farinata farcita con cipolla farinata stuffed with onions
If you’ve got a big copper pan, a wood-burning oven, and some time to translate, here’s the authentic recipe.
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