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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

From the Italian Riviera: Animated Sea Monsters, Linguine Al Pesto, and Mataòssu #ItalianFWT

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

This month the Italian Food Wine Travel writers are looking at Emilia-Romagna and Liguria.

This month Jen of Vino Travels is hosting and we are pairing wines from either Emilia-Romagna or Liguria. Here's the line-up of articles from the group...

From the Italian Riviera...

For this event, I opted to travel to Liguria, but - for the second region - I will also share how I am a Lambrusco convert after our #ItalianFWT May 2019 exploration.

Liguria is a thin, crescent-shaped coastal region of northwest Italy that is generally known for its white wines. The most common is Vermentino which is known locally as Pigato for the spots (pighe) that show on the mature grapes. I decided to share a few things from the Italian Riviera. First up: a movie.

The Fictional Portorosso in 'Luca'

Luca, the animated Pixar movie, is set in Portorosso, Italy. Though that is a fictional town, it is based on many of the actual small towns on the Italian Riviera such as Apricale and Manarola. Think of the colorful houses that run from the water to the ridge.

Luca is a coming-of-age tale for eponymous Luca Pagura and his friend Alberto Scorfano. Both are sea monsters - underwater - but become human as long as they are out of the water and stay dry.

Portorosso had steep, winding roads like many of the Riviera towns. And the boys and their newfound friend Giulia Marcovaldo train on those streets for the Portorosso Cup, a triathlon of sorts that includes a swim, a pasta-eating portion, and a bike ride.

Punta Crena Colline Savonesi Mataòssu Vigneto Reine 2021

The last time the #ItalianFWT group looked at Liguria, I ran out of time to find a wine. This time, I was determined and planned much better. I got my hands on a the 2021 Punta Crena Colline Savonesi Mataòssu Vigneto Reine.

Mataòssu is a completely new-to-me grape, so I was doubly excited to try a Ligurian wine and a mysterious variety. When I dug a little deeper, it appears this is only example that is commercially available. Even luckier! The Ruffino family have been making wine for more than half a millennium, passing their wisdom and skills from one generation to the next. Today the estate is run by four siblings: Tommaso, the eldest, is the winemaker; Paolo is the salesman; Anna handles logistics; and Nicola helps out in the vineyards and winery.

Punta Crena is a large promontory that juts into the sea at the edge of the Varigotti village. All of the vines are within half a mile of the water; the Ruffino family says that sea breezes keep the grapes happy and healthy. Punta Crena’s Mataòssu vines are nearly a century old and are organically farmed.

This wine has a surprisingly spicy nose. When I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, I noted 'garrigue', that aroma that embodies those coastal notes of lavender, juniper, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Underlying that is the salinity of the ocean and the sweetness of ripe pear. The wine was tangy and taut. I imagined pouring this with a platter of fritto misto. Instead, I opted for a Ligurian classic: pesto.

Linguine Al Pesto

Pesto is a sauce that originated in the Ligurian region of northern Italy. Pesto Genovese, from Genoa, traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil, and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano The name derives from the Italian verb pestare which means to pound or to crush, referring to the original way of preparing it - with a mortar and pestle. The ingredients in a traditional pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. Now I use a blender. It's much easier!

Note that I don't usually use pine nuts in my pesto - Jake and I had a terrible experience with pine nuts - but feel free.


  • 1 bunch organic fresh basil

  • 1 Tablespoon crushed garlic

  • 1/2 cup ground almonds

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

  • olive oil

  • freshly ground pepper

  • fleur de sel

  • Needed to serving: cooked linguine


Place all of the ingredients into the blender. Pulse a few times, drizzle in olive oil, and resume pulsing. Pulse. Oil. Pulse. Oil.

If you want a smoother, sauce-like pesto, add more olive oil and blend longer; if you want a chunkier pesto, use less oil and blend for less time. So simple. So fresh. So fragrant.

Toss the pesto into freshly cooked pasta. I used linguine for this dinner.

From Emilia-Romagna

As promised, I am sharing a bit about wines from Emilia-Romagna as well. Back in May 2019, I became a Lambruso-convert. I shared Every Wine Deserves a Second Look: Warmed Brie with Mulberry Chutney + Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena 2018. Before that I previously found Lambrusco cheerfully fizzy yet cloyingly sweet. There is so much more to that variety than that bubblegum-colored froth! I hope to explore more Lambrusco soon.

That's a wrap for my August #ItalianFWT offering. The group will be back in September exploring Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige Cindy of Grape Experiences leading the discussion.

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5 comentarios

14 ago 2023

I wrote about Luca in my post too Along with Ligurian typical pesto based pasta dishes. Must be from having kids! Was interesting to read about that grape. Glad you’re a Lambrusco convert. Cleto Chiarli can do that to you.

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05 ago 2023

I had completely missed the fact that Luca was set (fictionally) in this region! OMG, now that I look at it, of course it is! It looks so much like the villages we visited in Cinque Terre!

What an amazing find that Mataòssu was! I have never even heard of that grape! Add another to your list of grapes tasted! So cool!

Of course, now I am craving pesto. I was pondering on what to cook for dinner tonight. Guess that is solved! Maybe with some fritto misto!

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05 ago 2023

Oooo I love new grapes! And this one sounds fascinating. Now I have to add Mataòssu to my wish list.

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Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
04 ago 2023

Glad you found a wine and now I want to watch Luca.

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Camilla M. Mann
Camilla M. Mann
05 ago 2023
Contestando a

Little Miss M would like it, I think!

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