Pasta, risotto, spring vegetables, grilled fish and meat, pizza: What is the common and magical element that makes these Mediterranean dishes so delicious? Olive oil.
This traditional and natural ingredient completes virtually every Italian dish and is the key to healthy nutrition. Olive oil adds flavor and substance (saturated fats and vitamins) to a balanced diet.
But how to choose the right type of olive oil? As varied as wines, olive oil can be fruity, bitter, light, delicate, strong, or concentrated. They can be peppery or bland, and the texture ranges from thin to thick, greasy or waxy. Then there’s organic or not, and so many places of origin.
The first thing to know is that the best quality is always extra virgin. And Italian olive oil is especially high quality. With its warm climate and fertile soil, Italy offers a wide range of unique flavors to please all palates.
If you want to develop a taste for quality olive oil, try one of these Italian award winners. Each of the following extra virgin olive oils, all labeled DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin), won honors at the Ercole Olivario National Award 2013.
1. Olio extravergine DOP Umbria Colli Orvietani “Poggio Amnate” produced by Azienda Ranchino Eugenio, Orvieto – Terni, Umbria.
Sweet and spicy, harmonious and balanced, this oil is ideal for raw condiments and delicate appetizers, such as fish and grilled vegetables.
2. Olio extravergine DOP Umbria – Colli Martani produced by Frantoio Marfuga, Campello sul Clitunno, Perugia, Umbria
Fruity and fragrant, bitter and spicy, this oil wonderfully marries all raw foods.
3. Olio Extravergine DOP Sardegna produced by Cooperativa Valle del Cedrino Orosei, Nuoro, Sardegna
Fruity with an intense taste, this oil is perfectly combined with raw meats and fish and is particularly delicious on crostini.
4. Olio extravergine DOP Monti Iblei – Gulfi produced by Frantoi Cutrera, Chiaramonte Gulfi, Ragusa, Sicilia
Very intense, perfumed and fruity, this oil is fine and elegant with well-balanced bitter and spicy flavors. It is recommended with roasts, fowl, fish, soups, salads, and grilled vegetables, as well as on bruschetta.
5. Olio extravergine DOP Umbria Colli Assisi-Spoleto “Colleruita” produced by Azienda Agraria Viola, Sant’Eraclio di Foligno (PG) Umbria
This oil’s fruity, bitter, and spicy flavor is perfect with fish.
Finally, according to Altroconsumo magazine that tested some of the most popular brands sold in Italy, the best are Monini Bios (100 percent organic) and Bertolli Gentile, both from Tuscany.
The only thing left to do, is to look for some tasty Italian recipes!