A Guide to Italian Olive Oil

Since 1500 A.D., olive oil occupies a prominent place in every Italian household. Its unique fresh and fruity flavors along with its light texture conquered the hearts the entire Roman Empire. Ever since, it has been the basis of most Italian dishes. Used to add savor to sauces, enjoyed as a condiment over grilled vegetables, drizzled over salads and savored as a dipper for bread, olive oil has countless possible uses. But, there are different types of oils and finding the right one is essential to enjoying a tasty meal.

The taste of olive oil depends on a lot of factors such as the location, the climate, the environment and many more. For instance, if you taste olive oil from Tuscany—where the climate is mild and dry—it will have a slight peppery taste. Henceforth, it is perfect for steaks or any grilled dish. However, olive oils from Liguria are more buttery, light and fruity as the climate in this region is cooler and more humid. Moreover, olive oils from southern regions such as Puglia, where the weather is traditionally hot, and the soil is rich, tend to have a grassy and rich taste that is perfect for pasta dishes. Depending on what you are preparing or what you prefer, you should carefully choose your oil according to its region.

Otherwise, the quality of olive oil is closely linked to the process used to extract the oil from the olives. The are two broad categories of olive oils; those which are refined and those that are not. As a matter of fact, the more refined one oil is, the less taste and flavor it has. Shopping at the supermarket, you have probably come across the label “Extra Virgin Olive Oil,” but what does it really mean? This type of oil is unrefined and has a very low level of acidity, making it the tastiest and most healthy of all the other types of olive oil. Due to its more lengthy and complicated extraction, this olive oil is quite expensive and should be used to enhance salad dressing or consumed raw and could be cooked but at the expense of losing all its aromas and taste.

On the other hand, we have the “Pure Olive Oil,” also known as regular olive oil, which is refined and costs much less than the extra virgin. Contrarily to the extra virgin oil, the pure olive oil is extracted with heat, altering the taste of olives. While sometimes it is blended with some extra virgin oil, other times it is on its own and doesn’t have any particular aroma or zesty taste. This type of oil is only good for cooking as it cannot be appreciated on its own. If you are looking for something in between the two, a good bargain would be the “Virgin Olive Oil” which is an unrefined oil. With great health benefits at more reasonable prices, it can be used for cooking but can also be enjoyed on its own.

It may sound complicated to find the perfect olive oil, but it all comes down to one thing; you, trusting your taste buds. If you happen to fall in love with Puglia’s olive oil, do not hesitate to enjoy it as you wish to. After all, it is your own culinary journey.

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