Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

The one ingredient a chef should never be without

The one ingredient a chef should never be without
There’s a saying in Italy – never trust someone who cooks without olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is so popular that it’s used in almost every authentic Italian dish – including some desserts. With its long hot summers and fertile soil, the Tuscan climate is perfect for growing large, flavorsome olives, so it’s no surprise that they should feature so heavily in the area’s cuisine.

Just like fine wine, the flavor of the oil changes from region to region, depending on the variety of olive, climatic conditions, harvesting process and even the year it was grown – yes, you can get olive oils from different years of vintage.  The most popular varieties of olive in Tuscany are the Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino and Moraiolo, each lending a subtle difference in taste to the dishes they are used to create. It’s part of what makes Italian food so diverse from region to region.

There are an almost infinite number of ways to cook with olive oil, but perhaps the simplest is a dish called fettunta – a slice of toasted white bread drizzled in oil. If you’re a fan of Mediterranean cooking, then chances are you’ve already discovered the joys of a good olive oil. If you haven’t, then what’s taking you so long?