The white gold of Pigna
In the hinterland of Ventimiglia, in the far west of Liguria (Italian Riviera), there is a fascinating place that is almost still in time: the village of Pigna.
The hamlet can be reached by car, in about 30 minutes, starting from Ventimiglia and going up the Nervia Valley.
The village nestled between the Maritime Alps, now protected by the Regional Park of the “Alpi Liguri”, is absolutely worth a visit to its narrow streets called in dialect “kibi” and its architectural gems including the Gothic church of San Michele, the loggia of the Parliament and the chapel of San Bernardo, outside the village, which houses beautiful late-medieval frescoes by Giovanni Canavesio da Pinerolo.
One of the many reasons to visit Pigna is also to discover one of the Slow Food Presidium worthy of note in the Region of Liguria: the refined white Pigna bean is grown here.
On the narrow terraced strips typical of this area, it is sown, in rows, in June and the pods are harvested in autumn.
The best way to taste this legume is boiled, seasoned with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (naturally, exclusively Ligurian DOP): the dried beans are soaked overnight, then boiled in water (the water must exceed the beans by 1 and a half fingers) with garlic, 2 laurel leaves, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt.
From the moment the water starts to boil, you have to lower the heat and cook for another 15/20 minutes or so.
Afterwards they have to be drained and can be enjoyed both hot and cold seasoned further with extra virgin olive oil and, if you appreciate it, some red wine vinegar.
As well as boiled, white Pigna beans are an essential ingredient for some of the typical inland dishes such as goat and beans, “Zemin” (bean, vegetable and meat soup) and fritters.
It is not easy to buy a bag of dry white beans, unfortunately the production is more and more limited every year: the best way is to go to one of the still family-run Pigna food stores or to get in touch with one of the Pignasca families that still cultivate this delicacy ( on the Slow Food website you can find the contacts).
written by Veronica Littardi (Dafne Viaggi)