Savona’s cuisine blends both the fruits of the sea and land. Aromatic herbs and vegetables are used in dishes enriched by delicately-flavored, extra-virgin olive oil.
Among local products are spiny artichokes, ox-heart tomatoes and trumpet zucchini, with another favorite being the ancient violet asparagus of Albenga, revered for its tenderness. It is said to be the slowest growing asparagus in the world. The Savona chinotto was once used as an ornamental plant in the Savona’s countryside. It is a citrus fruit that looks like an orange, but has a more bitter taste, especially when eaten fresh, instead, it is candied and used in a liqeur.
Cicciarelli di Noli is a delicacy named for the town where it became popular. In Noli it is also called lussotti (luxuries). It is a small sand eel, which reaches a length of 6 inches. The cicciarello is usually dried in the sun and is then marinated with vinegar, or fried. The towns of Calizzano and Murialdo are known for their dried chestnuts.
Chickpeas are the main ingredient of the famous farinata flatbread, cooked in wood-burning ovens and brass pans. Characteristic of the city of Savona is the white variety, with wheat flour. Also made from chickpeas is the panissa, excellent fried in bread or diced and mixed into salads. There are many desserts, the two most famous are Amaretti di Sassello cookies and Baci di Alassio.
2 trombette zucchini (about 1 lb)
4 oz breadcrumbs (homemade)
3 oz Parmigiano cheese, grated
3 tbsp flat leave parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
For the Besciamella Sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1-1/4 cups milk, heated
freshly ground pepper
To make the besciamella sauce – melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but do not let it brown, about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.
In a pot of lighted salted boiling water, cook the zucchini until soft, 30 – 40 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Soak the stale bread in water and squeeze it well. With a grater with large holes, grate the trombette and after adding a little salt let it rest for about 20-30 minutes. Squeeze the trumpets well and place them in a bowl, add the squeezed bread, chopped garlic, egg, bread crumbs, Parmigiano cheese and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix the ingredients well and make some balls about 1-1/4 inches in diameter. If the mixture is too soft, add some breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the dumplings on parchment paper in a pan, add the previously prepared besciamella sauce. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until they are firm and have begun to brown.
Chicken Saltimbocca with Zucchini Flowers
12 zucchini blossoms, stems removed
2 boneless chicken breast halves
8 thin slices prosciutto
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
Gently rinse and dry zucchini blossoms.
Place each chicken breast between two 12-inch squares of parchment paper; using mallet, pound chicken to 1/4- to 1/3-inch thickness. Remove chicken from parchment paper and cut each breast in half lengthwise.
Season chicken with salt and pepper; top each with 3 zucchini blossoms. Wrap each chicken breast with 2 prosciutto slices, using toothpick to secure prosciutto and blossoms.
Melt butter with olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, blossom side down, and sauté until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Add white wine and continue cooking until wine is reduced and thickens slightly, about 2 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer chicken to serving platter. Remove toothpicks and pour sauce over chicken.
Baci di Alassio
For the cookies
2 cups toasted hazelnut meal/flour
1/3 cup quality cocoa powder
1-1/4 cups superfine sugar
3 large egg whites
2 tbsp clear honey
For the filling
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 oz quality dark chocolate, chopped
To toast hazelnut meal/flour, spread it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 325°F for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring it every few minutes, until it is dark golden in color and fragrant. Watch the pan carefully to make sure that the flour does not burn. Allow to cool before using.
Next, raise the over temperature to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the toasted hazelnut meal, cocoa powder and sugar in a medium bowl. Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, or handheld electric mixer fitted with a balloon-whisk attachment. Start by mixing on low, then medium-high speed, until stiff.
Use a flexible scraper to gradually fold in the hazelnut mixture, then the honey. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium fluted nozzle. Pipe small rounds, about 1 inch in diameter, onto the lined baking sheet, leaving space between each. Bake one sheet at a time (in the middle rack) for 15 minutes, then transfer the sheet to a wire rack to cool.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat the cream in a saucepan over a medium flame; once it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let it sit and melt for a few minutes, then stir to form a shiny paste. Let it sit at room temperature until cool to the touch, then transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer fitted with a balloon-whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, until smooth and thick. Do not overbeat, or it will be difficult to spread.
Fill a clean piping bag with the filling and pipe a small dollop onto the bases of half of the baked rounds. Sandwich them together with the remaining rounds. Chill in the refrigerator until the filling is set.