The Mesciua, La Spezia autumn food

This decidedly wintry weather, the cold, and the darkness that takes over our days more and more naturally inspire a dish for every La Spezia local. The Mesciua, or Mes-ciüa, is a dish defined as “of poor cuisine” but, in fact, very rich.

After all, when we speak of “poor cuisine, “we certainly do not mean a cuisine poor in flavors but rather essential and nutritious. This La Spezia traditional soup, with its aromas and the complexity of its ingredients, is the perfect example of how a simple traditional dish can be a real panacea. It warms the heart on the dullest days and is, therefore, a resource. Popular tradition says that the Mesciua, which means “mixture,” was invented by the dockers’ wives who collected what fell from the sacks of grains and legumes on the docks to make a single dish. However, it may not have originated from such a poor harvest. The dockers’ families may have brought home some of the goods they unevenly transported daily. Every time from this “mixture,” a slightly different dish came out.

What is certain is that the chickpea is an essential Mesciua ingredient that is found in many recipes of the local cuisine, for example, in the Farinata.

Probably precisely because the transport of dry legumes by sea left and arrived from our port since ancient times both as goods and as food for sailors. This certainly happened throughout Liguria, but the Mesciua seems from La Spezia, perhaps the most La Spezia recipe. Some think they were cooked here as early as the thirteenth century, but this contradicts the fact that legumes were cultivated in Europe only starting from the discovery of America. However, port cities like Spezia had access since ancient times to beans and chickpeas as “exotic” ingredients from Asia to be used in the kitchen.

Still trying to figure out how it originated, but delicious!

And, like many goodies in the kitchen, it takes time and patience to prepare. Today, in the city markets, you can find the package of pre-cooked Mesciua, which is, in any case, very good and eliminates the waiting time for each legume to soak, obviously resulting in much faster preparation.

For those who want to try the real recipe of Mesciua spezzina, here’s how:

  • Emmer, 200 gr
  • chickpeas, 200 gr
  • cannellini beans, 200 gr

They must be soaked for 24 hours separately and then rinsed. Spelled and chickpeas are cooked together in about two liters of water and, if desired, with a small addition of bicarbonate, making them softer. Leave the beans aside.

They have different cooking times: if the chickpeas are large, they need about three and a half hours; if they are small, a couple of hours (better not to use canned ones for the flavor, but even less in case); an hour for the cannellini beans.

Once ready, drain the chickpeas and add the beans to the pot; the resulting liquid must be about two liters; if it is too liquid, you can pass 2 ladles of legumes to thicken. Add coarse salt, stirring, and cook for another quarter of an hour. Add the best oil you can find and, to taste, pepper.

Many also like it warm, if not cold, especially in the summer. An acceptable variant is the addition of oregano. At the same time, some purists could kill those who add Parmesan, an ingredient decidedly extraneous to the tradition of the dish.