From the Culinary Trail – Ciaoing Down in Italy Part 1

The Trofie al Pesto Trail of Cinque Terre

You say pesto, I now say trofie! Let me explain. Despite all of us living in different parts of the world, my closest girlfriends from our university days continue to meet up whenever and wherever possible.  I was thrilled when Italy was selected as the get-together destination this year.  The land of  ‘dolce vita’ is likely number one or two on my list of countries worth visiting umpteenth times.   Italy feeds not only my travel photography appetite, but also a craving for my favourite cuisine.  I adore all Italian food, but my best-loved item is pesto. It is simple to make, is healthy for you and produces a luscious flavour for so few ingredients. I add this bold green, fragrant sauce with nearly everything – from salad dressing, sandwich spread, to chip dip.  With pasta, Pesto with angel hair pasta was my combo of choice; but now, it is Trofie al Pesto!  This part 1 of 3 posts, covering my adventure with superfoods found in Italy,  focuses on Trofie al Pesto from Cinque Terre.

Early this July, our group of friends met up in Cinque Terre which is a portion of the Liqurian coast (stretching from Genoa to Pisa) in north-western Italy.   When people think of Cinque Terre, the popular perception is about hiking between the five colourful villages perched on the rugged coast. This was our main reason for going.  And, lucky for me, I found out that Liquria is also a pesto paradise!  Originating in Genoa, around the 16th century, the name is derived from the Genose word pestâ, meaning to pound or crush.  The traditional pesto is made from fresh Genovese basil, garlic, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses.  I’ve tried pesto after pesto variations – from sun dried tomatoes to kale, but I still prefer the classic Pesto Genovese.  Below is the easy pesto perfect recipe that I use.

Basil Cinque Terre kake2kale
Pesto Genovese
– makes 1 cup

  • 2 cups fresh basil (add more as desired)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t. sea salt (add more to taste)

Directions:

  •  Combine the first four ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended.
  • Add the olive oil in a steady stream as the processor is running on slow. Blend until smooth.
  • Add sea salt to taste.

I have visited Italy on many occasions, but only discovered the wonderful trofie pasta on this trip.   Trofie also originates from Genoa and is a small, thin squiggly pasta that is made from flour and water (no eggs).  It is best accompanied with Pesto Genovese.  I love the pasta’s texture and the way the pesto wraps around its twisted form.  A popular version of Trofie al Pesto includes potatoes and green beans.  We enjoyed adding tasty Italian tomatoes when we made it on the trip. During our time in Cinque Terre, I couldn’t get enough of Trofie al Pesto and ate it every day.  It was already a dream to hang with my friends in Italy, but being on the trail of trofie and pesto was a special treat!

Trofie Pasta Kake2kale
To my surprise, we didn’t see the trofie pasta again on the rest of the trip in Italy and I have yet to find it in Vancouver.  However, it is easy to make.

Trofie Pasta 
– serves 4

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions:

  • Place the flour and sea salt in a bowl, then make a well in the middle.
  • Add the water in the well and create the dough by mixing the ingredients in a bowl with a fork then with your hands, adding more water or flour as needed to avoid the dough being too sticky or dry.
  • Place dough on floured flat surface, then knead it with your hand by folding and turning repeatedly until the dough is smooth.
  • Create a ball and wrap it in plastic.  Let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  • After the dough has rested, place a small portion (eg 1/4) of the dough on a floured surface and roll the dough into a 1/3″ roll or rope with your hands.
  • Cut the roll into 1/4″ pieces and sprinkle flour over them.
  • To shape, pick up each piece and roll it quickly between the palms of your hands, in one direction, to create a twisted tube with tapered ends.
  • Open your palms to drop the trofie piece onto a floured cookie sheet but pieces should not touch.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Cook fresh the pasta in boiling water (usually a few minutes for al dente) within 1-2 hours or refrigerate for later use.  As an option, I like adding a bit of salt and olive oil to the boiling water.

Superfoods to highlight are:

Basil – Rich in vitamin C, A, K, Magnesium, potassium and calcium.  Basil’s antioxidants are good for heart health.  Loaded with beta-caryophyllene, basil offers anti-inflammatory benefits.  It also has high anti-bacterial and anti-aging properties.  Basil can help fight against various medical conditions.  Its phenolics (specifically, vicenin and orientin) are a DNA protector.  It is a  great source of essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Garlic – The major player in the allium family ( includes, leeks, onions, shallots, chives, green onion) contains sulphuric compounds that may help with lowering blood pressure and destroy cancer cells.  Allicin, one of these compounds in garlic is not only anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal, but research has shown that allicin helps your body to neutralize dangerous free radicals.
Olive Oil – The benefits of olive oil are extensive and best described on the Olive Oil Times website. To summarize, olive oil has been found to be effective against heart disease, cancer, stress, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Pine Nuts – This seed has the highest amount of protein found in any nut.  They are the only source of pinoleic acid, an appetite suppressant.  They contain a high concentration of oleic acid which is good for heart health. Pine nuts are also rich in iron and packed with antioxidants.

Buon Appetito!   Travel Far, Explore More! – {Kale}

 

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