As you may know, Italy has many regional food traditions, and wherever you go, you will be able to try unique local specialties. It is the case for the area of La Spezia too, although the food of Liguria is perhaps not the most famous.
Pesto is a sauce for any pasta dish, and one of the most known local traditional recipes. One of the most important things to keep in mind to produce a good pesto, though, is the freshness of the ingredients. So there is no better pesto than the one you can make at home with some fresh basil leaves, garlic, oil, pecorino cheese, and pine seeds, beaten (=”pesto”), not mixed, together until you get a vivid green jam. You will see some very promising fresh pesto sauce jars, sold in the most touristic places; not all of them are bad, the best are often those that have a short expiry date.
Testaroli is a very local kind of pasta, a simple dish, usually prepared with pesto or some sort of meat and tomato sauce. It is often sold in a sealed vacuum plastic bag that can be kept for a couple of months, in round pieces: once opened it should be sliced in smaller pieces and put in boiling water for a very short time. Two or three minutes are enough, then they should be served hot with the above-mentioned sauces.
Spongata is a typical baked sweet cake. It is filled with a sort of jam, preserved inside a dough case, and is enriched with pine nuts, almonds, spices, and other flavourings. This cake is more typical of Sarzana, a nice small city about ten miles from La Spezia.
There are of course many “raw” materials produced in this area that are worth a mention: honey, olives, potatoes, sausages, cheese; most of them can be found during an excursion in the Vara Valley, a scarcely populated and very green area, where many farmers grow organic products. Lemons are an excellent production of the Cinque Terre territory.
Sciacchetrà, a legendary sweet wine is a true symbol of the Cinque Terre. Today it is almost impossible to find despite the very high demand. Born in Levanto, it has been produced for a very long time in all the villages of the Cinque Terre. The grapes come from the famous typical terraces and must be hung and dried in the sun to get to the sugar content corresponding to 17º of potential alcohol. These are the characteristics you should look out for when buying Sciacchetrà wine.
Limoncino is a liqueur obtained from the infusion of the lemon peels, water, and sugar. It is very common in the Naples area too, where it is usually called Limoncello. There are many distilleries producing this digestive drink, you should look for those that are made without the addition of food dyes and preservatives.