When I am on the road in Italy, if no other indication were available, I could probably tell where I was by the local attitude to beans. If the overruling passion is for the cranberry bean to the exclusion of every other legume, I am in the northeast. If cannellini are the principal object of affection, it is Tuscany. If it is chickpeas that clamor for attention, I could be in various places, in the south, in Sicily, but my first guess would be Liguria, the Italian Riviera.
It is chickpea flour rather than the whole pea that two classic Ligurian preparations are based on, but they take it in divergent directions. One produces a warm, spoon-soft, polenta-like chickpea porridge, usually known by the name of panissa or paniscia. I have seen people stir into it sliced raw onion, sautéed mushrooms, or cut-up browned sausage. It ends up being an alternative to polenta, but a more laborious one to prepare, with less rewarding flavor. I much prefer farinata, which is like a thin, very soft focaccia, and is consumed more casually, either as a snack, as an appetizer with drinks, or at a buffet.
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.