People often talk about wine and food pairing, and rightly so: wine can make or break a dish. But we talk very little about olive oil food pairing. Perhaps because most of the time we just “buy oil” without particular thought given to its particular tastes or properties. But here at Dievole, we are changing that, and we think that you are too, if you’re familiar with our line of distinctive extra virgin olive oils, all made in Italy. When you’re working with high quality, extra virgin olive oil, you’ll discover a range of flavours, and it’s just as important to correctly pair that with food as it is to choose the right wine. Extra virgin olive oil pairing can truly enhance a dish and make everything even more delicious.
There are a few hundred types of EVOO in Italy if you count all the possible cultivars and combinations, but we’re going to focus on a few of the monocultivars and blends that Dievole produces so you can put them to the best possible use. The main distinguishing factor we will look at is how the flavour of these oils varies in intensity of bitterness and spiciness. Then, there are subtleties of taste (much like the secondary aromas in wine) that influence how they are best to be paired. In general, the EVOO you choose to pair should act in harmony, not in contrast, with the food in question. It should not be any stronger than that food. So a light extra virgin olive oil goes with a light food, a more intense strong one goes with foods with greater body – a general rule that applies also to wine. Of course, there can be interesting exceptions to the rule, but this is just something to go by!
An interesting note: like wines, olive oils will vary by year. A particularly hot summer will develop a more concentrated olive oil, since the olives develop thick, waxy skins to protect themselves from dehydration. The flavours may also be slightly different, even if the source is the very same cultivar and same tree!
Olive oil Food Pairing with Nocellara EVOO
2015 was the first year we started producing Nocellara, a type of olive perhaps most typical of south-western Sicily, but that we grow in the Basilicata region of Italy.
We added Nocellara to our arsenal because it is a particularly light oil. On a scale of 10, its intensity would be a 3 or 4. It’s persistently bitter (but less so than, say, a Coratina), with a delicate taste of cut grass and red tomato leaf. This EVOO goes well on baked fish with herbs, boiled lobster, pasta with mushrooms or other foods that are light, but not too light to be overwhelmed by a still rather flavourful topping.
Pairing Coratina EVOO
Coratina is probably the most complex and intense monocultivar that you can find on the market, and Dievole’s is a real gem that has received olive oil prizes year after year. It’s got a sharp chicory flavour and almond notes, and it’s unabashedly intense. It’s also got a relatively thick consistency so it holds its own over warm and spicy foods.
This EVOO is brilliant on anything grilled, as it enhances the smokiness of both meat on the BBQ (like roast lamb or chicken) and of grilled vegetables, like radicchio or zucchini. Drizzle it on a hearty bean soup and you’ll be inebriated by the odour. Perfect also on bruschetta or with seasoned cheeses.
Pairing DOP Chianti Classico EVOO
Our area of Chianti Classico makes a DOP extra virgin olive oil out of the prized local types of olives: frantoio and moraiolo. These are carefully blended to make a unique oil that sings the praises of our territory. When it comes to olive oil food pairing, keep in mind that this is a relatively spicy EVOO, slightly less than the Coratina, but with a strong scent of walnut and undertones of fresh vegetables.
It goes well with typical Tuscan foods like ribollita, steak with porcini mushrooms, spinach salad, salmon, lentil soup, goats cheese or dishes with artichokes. In the summertime, drizzle it on a caprese salad, or even on a green salad, mixed with our Chianti Classico wine vinegar.
Pairing 100% Italiano blend EVOO
Dievole also makes a 100% Italian blend, with Leccino, Coratina, Peranzana and Ogliarola olives. This evoo is perfectly balanced to make a light and fruity, all-purpose oil that chefs appreciate particularly because it is easy to pair. But light doesn’t mean without taste: this blend betrays scents of almonds, thistle and freshly cut grass, as well as green tomatoes (depending on the year).
Ideal olive oil food pairing for this blend would be chicken salad, roast lamb, oysters gratiné, asparagus soup and fresh cheeses.
Pairing IGP Toscano EVOO
IGP Toscano is another pride and joy of our territory. Grown in groves we manage in the beautiful Maremma area of Tuscany, it’s a blend of Leccino, Moraiolo, Frantoio and Maurino olives. It differs from the DOP Chianti Classico, being somewhat lighter. We don’t produce much of this one, so if you see a bottle, grab it! IGP Toscano is a particularly good match with numerous vegetarian dishes like vegetable bruschette, barley salad, tomatoes with rice, bean soup, artichoke risotto, grilled fish, salmon tartare, goat’s cheese and medium mature and firm-textured cheeses.
Have you ever taken an olive oil tasting tour? Dievole offers the opportunity to taste all the olive oils we make each year, in loco, here in Tuscany. In about one hour, we’ll go through many of the facts in this article, but we’ll also guide you in a technical tasting so you can experience it for yourself. Depending on the season, you’ll also see the olives on the tree and, if they’re ripe, get to feel the bitterness of an olive straight off the tree on your tongue!