Genoa’s cooking, moreover, shows a certain sobriety, which is not at all a lack of fantasy (as is shown by the inventive use of both wild and aromatic herbs and blending of flavors), but rather reflects a lifestyle.
The scarcity of fresh fish dishes should not come as a surprise, because the Ligurians have always been great sailors and traders, but poor fisherman.
The Ligurian Sea, furthermore, because of its sea bottom, doesn’t offer many resources. However, in many old recipes fish is still important. Seafood "capponada" (salted anchovies served on a base of crackers) is the basis of "cappon magro" a grandiose and complex dish based on fresh fish and vegetables in green parsley sauce.
The characteristics of the Ligurian land are also reflected in the fact that few dishes are based on meat. Not too long ago meat was reserved exclusively for holidays. Worthy of note are stuffed "cima", meat pockets filled with sweetbreads, brain, veal, egg, vegetables and flavorings, cooked in broth and cold-pressed.
Finally, worth mentioning are "berodi," which are blood sausages made from pork, obligatory on the Christmas table, and Sant’ Olcese salamis.
Vegetable dishes are numerous and exquisite. Fried eggplant, onion and zucchini are filled and fried, baked or steamed. A delicate broth is made from stuffed greens.
Meat loaf called "scarbasse" is made with string beans, potatoes, ricotta cheese and egg. The celebrated Easter cake called "torta Pasqualina" is filled with numerous layers prepared using a special technique and based on chard, egg and curd.
Aromatic herbs have particular importance in Genoa’s cuisine, which avoids sauces and rich dishes. Preferred herbs are garlic, oregano, marjoram, parsley, and, above all, basil. The celebrated "pesto" is prepared by pounding basil leaves, garlic and pecorino cheese in a marble mortar, finally flavoring this mixture with olive oil.
In the typical fish and chips shops, together with blue fish and baccalà, they often serve "farinata" (chickpea flour mixed with water to form a paste, then cooked in a pizza oven in the appropriate sauce pan or baking dish), "cuculli," made from chickpea flour, and "frisceu," a light, round vegetable croquette. At Christmas "pandolce" is present on every table. "Canestrelli," typical cookies from Genoa’s hills, are also unforgettable, as are "panera," ice cream cakes made with whipped cream and coffee.
Genoa’s wines boast an ancient tradition. Even the Valpolicevera tablet, the oldest document concerning the history of Genoa, mentions wines produced in this area. In the late middle ages, the Carignano hills were rich in vineyards, as were other places like Rivarolo and Quarto. Today only the "Coronata" is still popular. This is a white wine with an unmistakable aftertaste of sulfur!