Which Oil Makes for Good Italian?

by - 8:50 AM

Buongiorno miei amata amici!

"Un po 'd'olio d'oliva e un po' di vino equivale a un cuore sano e felice!"
This Italian proverb means "A bit of olive oil and a little wine equals a healthy and happy heart!"

When it comes to cooking, most Italians can name off four essential fats they employ in the kitchen.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Oil/Lard from Pork
  • Grape Seed Oil (or other seed oils)
All of these can be easily purchased in Northern America as well.
Olive Oil can have many flavors to it, but you want one that embellishes not detracts from the dish you are preparing. It is important to store your Olive and Seed oil in a dark and cool area to keep them from going rancid. The oil will keep for about a year once opened if stored properly, though in our home it will never last that long.
If you are trying to avoid the influence of olive in your dish, you will want to try a seed oil. While we have many options in the USA, my advice would be to use Grape Seed Oil, as it is healthier than most options.
Butter can be salted or unsalted, but be sure to adjust the salt in the recipe accordingly. If using butter over a higher heat, I mix in some oil with a high smoking point (such as EVOO or Grape Seed Oil). EVOO = Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Butter should be stored in the refrigerator except when bringing it to room temperature for baking.
Both oils also work well for seasoning cast iron because of their high smoking point.
While some people buy Lard, I tend to drain the grease off from our meat and use it fresh. I know my grandmother always kept a container of bacon grease on her stove top and we never did get ill from it. Maybe it was because she always used cast iron and it gets so hot that surely any bacteria would die. However, my fear keeps me using fresh pork when I need the flavor of pork oil.
In most Italian dishes the fats are interchangeable and will simply alter the flavor to create a variant of the usual recipe. As time moves forward, I have my favorite oils to use in preparation of dishes and it has become second nature.
*An added note: In our family, the ones who use these types of oils do not have high cholesterol, but the ones who use margarine, shortening, and vegetable oil (mostly made from soybean oil today) have high cholesterol. Perhaps this has no bearing on the results, but it leads me to believe natural fats are healthier.
Photo of Buon Appetito Giulianna

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4 intriguing comments

  1. Can you mention some types of olive oil that you recommend? I feel lost at the grocery store when I look at the olive oil section.

  2. Wow! This is a loaded question. LOL! It seems that olive oil is a matter of taste, such as wine. Also it depends on if you are employing the oil for cooking, dipping, or dressing.

    In my lifetime, I have had some that had such a PUNGENT flavor that my first impressions of olive oil were not positive. That said, when one is used to a vegetable oil made from soybeans or rapeseed, then you have to acquire a "taste" for olive oil. It is worth the work to know you are giving your family "life."

    We are on a tight budget, so I have to use the "cheaper" brands unless a sponsor blesses us with bottles of their select olive oil.

    Honestly, I have had really good bottles of extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's and even Walmart's brand "Great Value." Currently, I just bought a bottle of Pompeian, but have not tried it out yet.

    I hope this helps. If you live near Napa, you might be interested in touring Dutch Henry's. They have an "olive oil" tasting, much like wine tasting. :) I am hoping to participate in some olive oil tastings this summer in Napa.

  3. does grape seed oil have the same properties as olive? I see it's more expensive...is it worth it

  4. thanks my italian baker loves to eat and this has given me something to consider when trying to keep him tickled at life.might be better tasing is better for him


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