A Taste Of The Ligurian Coast Of Italy

The Ligurian Region Of Italy

“A small handful of Pignoli or pine nuts, fragrant rosemary, thyme, garlic and olive oil create a light sauce that is drizzled over simple sautéed chicken breasts to create a meal that will transport you to the Ligurian region of Italy.”

Liguria is a narrow crescent shaped region, from the turquoise blue Mediterranean Sea to the jagged  mountains, stretching from the border of France to Tuscany and is home to Genoa, one of Italy’s largest cities and the small picturesque village of Portofino.

picturesque portofino
Picturesque Portofino Harbor

Vineyards grow on the steep terraced mountains and overlook charming fishing villages such as the famous Cinque Terre. The coastal region is best known for its fresh seafood dishes, the bright green condiment called pesto, focaccia and fresh vegetables. What may be less known are its fantastic olive oils and distinctive wines, locally made cheeses and white meats such as rabbit seasoned with wild herbs that are all excellent.

If you are familiar with the cuisine of the Italian Riviera and someone mentions a sauce of herbs and pine nuts, your immediate thought might be of the bright green pesto the region is known for, but this sauce doesn’t use traditional basil. Instead the fragrant Mediterranean herbs, rosemary and thyme that grow wild and scent the air in this region of Italy, are used to make this quick and easy dish. In keeping with how food is usually prepared at family run trattorias that cook with just a few simple ingredients, this chicken is coated with a fruity olive oil, sprinkled with a little sea salt and pepper, sautéed and then finished with a fresh herb and pine nut sauce. It is perfect for a quick weekday meal but the flavor is special enough to serve your guests.


chicken with herb and pine nut sauce
Pan Sautéed Chicken Breast With A Fresh Herb And Pine Nut Sauce

A small handful of Pignoli or pine nuts, fragrant rosemary, thyme, garlic and olive oil create a light sauce that is drizzled over simple sautéed chicken breasts to create a 30 minute meal that will transport you to the Ligurian region of Italy. This delicious sauce is also great drizzled over a piece of grilled fish, your favorite pasta or fresh vegetables.

Sautéed Chicken With A Fresh Herb And Pine Nut Sauce

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.

Herb And Pine Nut Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts

  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme

Toast the pine nuts in a dry sauté pan over medium heat, tossing frequently, until just golden brown. Watch carefully as they can easily burn. Once brown, remove from the pan and let cool. When cool, chop the nuts until very fine. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a small sauce pan over low heat and warm for one minute. Remove from the heat, add the nuts and fresh herbs and let the sauce rest for the flavors to meld.


  • One chicken breast per person, pounded to even out the thickness

  • olive oil

  • salt and pepper to taste

Rub the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick sauté pan over medium high heat. Place the chicken, breast smooth side down, in the skillet and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until golden brown. (If you have a cooking weight, it will help with even browning). Turn the chicken breast over and cook until done, depending on the thickness about another 3 minutes. Plate the chicken and drizzle with the herb and pine nut sauce.


  • The flavor of this simple dish is enhanced by toasting the pine nuts first…it adds to their rich, buttery flavor and texture.

  • I know that Pignoli, or pine nuts as they are commonly called, are expensive but you only need about a tablespoon for each chicken breast that you prepare as pine nuts pack a lot of flavor. You can certainly substitute the pine nuts but the flavor will not be the same as what you would have in the Ligurian region of Italy.

  • I like to warm the garlic as it mellows its pungency but it is not necessary.


Seafood features prominently in restaurants found along the seacoast of the Italian Riviera, while goat, lamb, chicken and wild game along with local produce and Mediterranean herbs is found more often in the hill towns. For the recipe I’m sharing, I took inspiration from what you might find if you dined in a charming trattoria located on one of the small squares of the villages perched high above the sea. Fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts and olive oil turn the sautéed chicken breast into a special dish that has all the flavors of the Ligurian region. I served the chicken with orzo pasta that was tossed with basil, fresh cherry tomatoes, olive oil and grated cheese. If you can find trofie, little hand rolled pasta twists typical of the area, they would be great to serve along with this meal.

Throughout the Mediterranean countries, pine nuts are used in all types of sauces and I hope you will try this one, it is quick, easy and delicious. Buon Appetito!

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

76 thoughts on “A Taste Of The Ligurian Coast Of Italy

    1. Thank you Kay for your lovely compliments. Yes the food of Liguria is great…I especially love all the vegetables and herbs they use in their cooking.

  1. This looks pretty tasty and very simple. I might even have all the ingredients (if my rosemary is big enough and I should be able to snag a teaspoonful from it. This just might be tonight’s dinner if the chicken defrosts in time! Thanks, Karen!

    1. Jeanie, this is one of the most simple recipes I’ve shared but so good. I do hope you enjoy it if you have the opportunity to try it. Thank you for your compliment.

    1. Thank you Mad Dog for the nice compliment. I think we are all dreaming of the Mediterranean right about now. Even if we were to decide we would take a chance and go…none of the countries would let us in. 😞

    1. Thank you Larry, I hope you enjoy the dish if you give it a try. Wouldn’t a visit to Italy right about now be nice…oh well, we will just have to keep on dreaming.

  2. Your food posts make my mouth water get my travel itch going….thanks. Love the recipe. Where I grew up there were pinyon pines where my dad and used to hunt quail. We would gather them and just Eat them raw.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words Bishop, your compliment is very much appreciated. Wow, that had to be nice to find them and enjoy them on the spot.

  3. Such a nice recipe — simple and uncomplicated, but with outstanding flavor. Love the pictures, too. Alas, I think I’ll be doing only virtual travel this year (and maybe a good part of next, as well). So keep those pictures coming! And the recipes too, of course. 🙂

    1. I appreciate your nice compliment John. The chicken is simply prepare but really is very flavorful. It seems so strange to not be planning a trip….like you, I’ll be traveling virtually for a while.

  4. We have been to the Ligurian region and stayed in Cinque de Terra and absolutely loved the fresh seafood and pasta. Can’t wait to try your delicious and very simple chicken dish. We can’t wait to go back.

    1. Thank you Bobbi, I hope you will enjoy the chicken dish…I thought it was so typical of the Ligurian food I had in the Cinque de Terra. Unfortunately I didn’t see much of Cinque de Terra as I had broken my foot upon arriving in Italy a couple of days earlier. Being able to sit in the square or from our balcony and watch everyone pass by was a treat in itself. 😊

    1. I totally agree with you Deb, we have really been lucky. I’m glad you like the recipe and hope you will enjoy the chicken if you get a chance to make it. Thank you for your compliment.

  5. Another I look forward to trying! (With shallot, of course…) I remember picking the wild thyme, rosemary, oregano, and fennel when we rented a grape harvester’s cottage high above Vernazza. It was lovely to cook there — the owners also had a garden with fresh veggies and fruits. I would do love to go back now.

    1. Thank you Liz, If you did have the opportunity to try the chicken with the herb and pine nut sauce, I hope you enjoyed it. I appreciate your compliment.

  6. That sauce sounds delicious Karen. I love pinenuts, although they are horribly expensive here. But until now I have only made basil pesto with them. Thank you for sharing! 😃

    1. Thank you Cathy, I’m glad you like the pine nut sauce. Yes they are expensive but you don’t need a lot because of their flavor so I try to use them ways other than pesto.

  7. This sounds so delicious! My husband and I both love pine nuts so I will definitely made this! Do you know if a source for Italian or Mediterranean pine nuts? Would love to find some from somewhere other than China.

    1. I’m glad you like the recipe Beth, thank you. I’ve bought other varieties of nuts from Nuts.Com and their products are good, you might want to check as they did have pine nuts from the Mediterranean.

    1. Thank you for your compliment Gary, the chicken was indeed delicious. I do hope that you get a chance to visit Italy…the country and its food is wonderful.

  8. You truly make one forget the current feeling-world – remember the days past and to those about which we dream ! Methinks for me this world regarding food experiences reaches along the coastline right from Marseilles ‘around the bend’ in Italy and to Roman latitudes . . .absolutely love your simple recipe .. . . thank God pinenuts do not cost the proverbial arm and leg here but are used almost on a daily basis . . . delightful . . . . .

    1. I appreciate your kind words Eha, thank you. It’s nice to know that the price of pine nuts is reasonable in your part of the world. Even though they are expensive here, you don’t need lots to make a big impression in taste. I’m glad you are able use them often.

  9. Oh I remember using the fresh ingredients that I found at the village market in the small village of Fiesole, Italy in Tuscany. I cooked a wonderful meal at our villa.
    Now I must try making this dish here at home to bring back all the wonderful memories…
    Thank you for this.
    Have a wonderful week!

    1. Hi Nancy, I hope that the chicken with herbs and pine nuts brings back all your wonderful memories from your time spent in Fiesole. My memory from Fiesole was having a lovely lunch out on the loggia at Villa San Michele there. The town takes you away from the hubbub of Florence below. Thanks for reminding me as well. 😊

    1. You are right Mimi, Liguria is a beautiful part of Italy. Yes, my header photo is new, actually there are two that change randomly. One of a road through French vineyards and one of a display of vegetables. Thank you for your nice compliment about the recipe and the new look.

  10. This sounds absolutely amazing, Karen! Those photos just whisked me away to the Italian coastline…man, I would give anything to travel there right now. My travel genes are screaming right now, and I can’t do anything about it! This recipe sounds delicious, though. I’ve had the chance to try Ligurian olive oil before, and it’s quite tasty. Slightly sweeter if I recall, but still wonderful. This recipe is going on our menu!!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos David and that they brought back memories of your travels to Italy. Until we can travel, we will just have to enjoy the food that is inspired by our travels. Thank you for your nice compliment about the recipe.

  11. We love recipes that are not complicated and this sounds mouthwatering! Karen, we travel to Italy often, but never have the time to describe the regions of Italy as well as you do. I will try this recipe, and link it to you! Great post!

    1. I appreciate your kind words Anna and Liz. I hope you will enjoy the casarecce pasta and thank you in advance if you link the recipe.

    1. Thank you for your compliment and wish Diane, we are indeed trying to stay safe. Your garden looks wonderful and I know you will enjoy its bounty.

  12. This is truly a lovely dish. I bought about a kilo of pinenuts in Spain when we were there in February/March, the woman selling them thought I was nuts but we can mostly only get Chinese pinenuts and I refuse to buy/eat them. The Italian ones are absurdly expensive here.

    1. Hi Amanda, sorry you had to cancel your trip to Spain but I hope you enjoyed your staycation. I’m glad you like the sound of the recipe, thank you.

    1. I know what you mean Lorraine, this is the time of the year that I’m usually putting the final plans together for a trip to Europe. Thank you, I’m glad you like the pasta recipe.

  13. I went to the Cinque Terre 10 years ago. It’s a really great place to visit! Your photos are making my mouth water! Would love to return to the Cinque Terre and go in an Italian restaurant. Thanks Karen for sharing!

    1. I’m happy that my post brought back nice memories of your time spent in Cinque Terre. Thank you for your nice compliment. BTW, I’m having trouble leaving comments on your blog…they seem to disappear in thin air.

    1. Thank you Liz, we do need to do everything possible to keep our spirits up. I’m glad you like the photos and recipe, thank you.

  14. Such a beautiful post- I love the photography and the recipe! I am excited because I’ve actually been to Genoa and Portofino and it’s bringing back wonderful memories.

    1. Thank you Judee for stopping by for a visit and your lovely compliment. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post and that it brought back memories of your time spent in Genoa and Portofino. 😘

  15. Your photos are stunning, Karen and this recipe looks amazing too! I can’t wait to share it with my family. Thank you for sharing it with us. Hope your week has been a happy one, CoCo

    1. I appreciate your kind words Coco about the photos and recipe. I do hope you and your family will enjoy he chicken with the herb and pine nut sauce when you get the chance to make it.

  16. Beautiful dish Karen! Your recipe is so easy yet elegant. I have several flavored olives oils that I would love to try with this recipe. Thanks!

  17. Hell Karen.

    Must be delicious. I love very much sceneries which you presented. When seeing second photo, it reminded of Cinque Terre indeed. Thank you.

    Happy Sunday!

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