Extra virgin olive oil: its use and suggestions according to Italian tradition
One of the best-loved Italian delicacies, extra virgin olive oil enjoys a very long tradition and unique qualities. A combination of taste, versatility and a touch of style and flavor for hundreds of different preparations that, starting with ancient processing techniques and well-established processes for growing, maintaining and harvesting olives, graces the table all over the world, attesting to its status as a true must-have celebrity.
But how exactly are Italians in the habit of using extra virgin olive oil? What are the most popular recipes for this food and wine excellence to enhance, a cornerstone food of the Mediterranean diet?
Extra virgin olive oil: how Italians use it in cooking
Starting with a very authentic appetizer, often served as a welcome snack or as an accompaniment to an aperitif. We are talking about bruschetta, slices of bread about a centimeter thick toasted on the grill or in the oven, seasoned with garlic and topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. If you like, you can add tomato cut into small pieces, tomato basil sauce or Genoa-style pesto to it.
Extra-virgin olive oil complements even a simple plate of pasta with tomato sauce in style: if you sit down in a real Italian restaurant you will most likely see an Italian who, before enjoying his or her plate of pasta, tops it with a drizzle of oil and some parmesan or grana padano cheese. Try it for yourself!
And that's not all: extra virgin olive oil can give character and smoothness to salads, fish and meat dishes, lasagna, gnocchi and even a tasty pizza, especially when used in a spicy version. In risottos, it is used only for providing creaminess, and in a maximum amount of two tablespoons: the risotto is in fact already very creamy and soft.
Lastly, let us mention the use of extra virgin olive oil for sautéing to make sauces or gravies, and more generally as a base in the pot for creating dishes such as vegetable side dishes.
Properties and benefits of extra virgin olive oil
The science and gastronomic culture for decades have emphasized the many benefits that extra virgin olive oil brings to our bodies. Among the most important are:
- Regulation of blood cholesterol levels, effectively protecting arteries
- It is packed with natural antioxidants that slow tissue aging
- Lowers the amount of glucose in the blood, preventing dangerous glycemic spikes after meals for those with type 1 diabetes
- It is very digestible and promotes the well-being of the stomach and intestines
- It reduces the risk of ulcers, hypertension and cardiovascular problems
- Its balanced fat composition gives it a high detoxifying power
Although still under analysis, the oleocanthal molecule contained in extra virgin olive oil is also believed to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. If confirmed, this study would further add to the already substantial list of beneficial effects of this 100% Italian excellence.