FRESH LIGURIAN PASTA: HOW MUCH PER PERSON, HOW LONG IT COOKS AND HOW TO SEASON IT
The great history of pasta in Liguria, which began in the Middle Ages with the Genoese trading Arab pasta from Sicily and the monopoly on the transport of wheat across the Mediterranean, has left us the tasty legacy of many typical shapes. Although an important local dry pasta industry existed over the past centuries, it was fresh pasta that became predominant over time within the local gastronomic tradition, most likely because it was the one that was handed down at home: suffice it to say that trofie - now also known outside Italy as dry pasta - until the 1960s was a homemade fresh pasta whose production remained within the families of the inhabitants of Golfo Paradiso and was not widespread even in nearby Genoa.
You can try and savour the tradition of fresh Ligurian pasta first-hand thanks to the direct online sale of Molo modo21, which sends you home (in Italy and Europe) the best of local production in thermal packaging (100% recyclable and green) to preserve its quality. Here you will find our tips to help you before and after the purchase of our fresh pasta.
Quantity of fresh pasta per person
If we are used to eating only dry pasta, it is not immediate to guess the right portions for fresh pasta, because dry pasta and fresh pasta yield differently on the plate after cooking: but even between the same fresh pasta, with or without filling, there is a difference! So let's try to put some order into it. It's a trivial thing to say, but dry pasta is made by drying it: this step, which is very important for the final result, is not envisaged for fresh pasta, which in fact remains moist. So when we go to weigh the pasta, fresh pasta will be heavier due to the presence of water in the dough, water which, on the other hand, in the case of dry pasta will regain with cooking, rehydrating. In addition, for filled pasta, the filling itself will also weigh more.
But let's get down to the numbers, in order to understand concretely how much pasta we have to throw away per person and not to err on the side of doses. For 80 to 100 grams of dry (uncooked) pasta, an equivalent portion of fresh pasta is about 150 grams, while for fresh filled pasta we need to cook at least 200 grams per person. Fresh potato gnocchi are a story in themselves and it is recommended to throw in at least 250 grams per person. For testaroli, on the other hand, which is a very special pasta from eastern Liguria (a kind of thin bread that is then baked like pasta), the average portion is 150/200 grams.
How long fresh pasta should cook
If fresh pasta is purchased online, such as from our e-commerce site, it is usually shipped in some kind of packaging with an information label which, among other data, also indicates the recommended cooking time.
Generally speaking, however, the cooking time for fresh pasta is fairly quick, a few minutes at most, many times just after the pasta has risen to the surface: the fresh pasta that cooks in the shortest time are potato gnocchi and testaroli; the latter must be drained within a minute because otherwise they fall apart, being practically a sheet of bread.
How fresh pasta is seasoned
In Genoa and Liguria, the combinations of the various formats of fresh pasta and sauces are now fairly historically codified. For the most part, Genoese pesto is used, which is certainly the most widely used condiment in the region, so much so that it has become one of the gastronomic symbols of the area (and beyond).
Pansoto is a stuffed pasta typical of the Genoese area, especially the Riviera di Levante: over time it has evolved into different shapes (half-moon, triangular, tortello) but certainly the appearance of a large pot-bellied raviolo is the most traditional, if only because its name recalls the 'pansa'/'belly'. The filling is always lean, i.e. only vegetables and cheese, no meat. Pansoti is seasoned with walnut sauce, which is a cream (in ancient times pounded in a mortar) made from walnut kernels, garlic, oil, cheese and bread soaked in milk. Like many traditional recipes, walnut sauce has countless family variations, and some prefer to dilute the sauce with fresh cheese alone and others with soaked bread; similarly, some season with marjoram and others with other herbs. The walnut sauce is then added raw when serving the pansoti on the table. In addition to walnut sauce, pansoti can also be seasoned simply with butter and sage.
Genoese ravioli usually have a mixed meat and vegetable filling, which can be borage or preboggion (a mix of local wild herbs, including borage itself). Genoese ravioli are served either with meat sauce or mushroom sauce, in both cases they are red tomato-based sauces. The meat sauce is not a common ragù but a typical recipe from the city, the tuccu: this sauce differs from many other meat sauces because it is made from a single piece of meat (hence the name 'tuccu'/'touch'/'piece'); this touch of meat is cooked like a stew for many hours so that it slowly releases its flavour into the sauce, but it does not have to completely flake off, so much so that some Genoese prefer to use the sauce to season pasta and then serve the meat alone as a main course.
Resembling pasta shavings, trofie are a short pasta format that originated mainly as fresh home-made pasta but nowadays are also produced as dried pasta. Until a few decades ago, production was still by hand without machines and in fact their distribution took place in the neighbouring municipalities (trofie pasta originated in the Golfo del Paradiso, that part of the coast between Genoa and the Portofino promontory): the spread of trofie pasta outside the province is fairly recent and is also due to the combination with Genoese pesto, which remains the main condiment for this pasta. However, given their versatility, trofie pasta lends itself very well to being used in various recipes: it can be sautéed in a frying pan, for example with a fish or summer vegetable sauce, and some (outside the region) even make it pasty and baked in the oven. In addition to white trofie made with soft wheat flour, trofie made with chestnut flour are also produced (they can be served with pesto, but also with a cream of milk and garlic), as well as trofie avvantaggiate: the latter are often mistakenly identified with trofie served with pesto and potatoes and green beans, but in Genoa, the advantaged pasta is the one that has wholemeal flour in its dough (which can then be served with pesto, potatoes and green beans...).
Although common to so many gastronomic cultures, potato gnocchi are considered a traditional pasta by the Genoese, who almost always dress them with their pesto: the combination of the softness of the potatoes in fresh gnocchi with the creaminess and velvety texture of Genoese pesto is something that lingers in the taste buds, which is why this combination is so popular in the city (for the Genoese, there are 'gnocchi al pesto' rather than gnocchi in general). But being a pasta format that is also widespread in the rest of the world with its countless variations, it is clear that potato gnocchi can be dressed with the most diverse sauces and can be used in other ways and recipes. Amusing is the short-circuit that arises around the definition 'gnocchi alla genovese': in this case, rather than identifying gnocchi with pesto, it refers to gnocchi dressed with 'sugo alla genovese', which is a meat sauce, Genoese in name only, as it is traditionally made in Naples.
In Genoa, the custom of making lasagne in the oven is quite recent, so much so that lasagne with pesto made in the oven is not exactly accepted by everyone in the city. As a pasta format, however, lasagne is one of the oldest in the Genoese tradition and at the time (we are talking at least from the 15th century) it was either made in broth or topped with oil and cacio cheese. Nowadays, however, the classic lasagne condiment is Genoese pesto: fresh lasagne is cooked in salted water and dressed on the plate with pesto. If the lasagne sheet is very thin, then it is more appropriately called 'mandilli de sea', which owes its name to the fact that the pasta is so thin that it is almost transparent, similar to silk.
Typical pasta from the Lunigiana region, which is made in the shape of a thin disc and then cut as desired before cooking in boiling water... but in reality the testarolo has already been cooked! In fact, to obtain this disc of dough, the dough is put into red-hot pans: the result is a dough that is a cross with bread and its consistency on the palate is then something special. So the dilemma: is it fresh pasta or not? Because its dough is cooked but not dried; and by the way, the final cooking, that in boiling water, is immediate, less than a minute. Like all Ligurian pasta, testaroli can also be dressed with pesto genovese, but given their particularity they lend themselves well to being used in a variety of ways, from the most elaborate preparations to simply with some oil and cheese. There are also products similar to testaroli (e.g. panigacci) that are instead used to accompany cheese and cold cuts, just to understand the uniqueness of this pasta format.