Understanding Olive Oil

Olive oils from around the world

For the past five years, I have been doing seminars for our local farm market.  I concentrate on sharing inside information that I have learned from my passion for food.  This year I decided to investigate olive oils from around the world.  With all this hype on olive oils lately what do we really know about them?

So, let me share how it came to be that I am so passionate about olive oil.   As you probably know by now if you have been following my blog entries, my parents came from Italy to the US in the late 1950’s. So, while growing up we would often go to Italy to visit our relatives.  My dad came from the town of Monte di Procida while my mom was from the island of Ischia.  Both overlooked the bay of Naples.  There is one memorable experience that made a real impact and was the catalyst for my passion for food.  I must have been around 10 years old.  My Nonna handed me an empty green bottle and asked me to go to the corner store ‘Rosarios’ to fill up the bottle with olive oil.  My chest filled up with self-importance with this chore.  Never been allowed to walk to ‘Rosarios’ by myself before, I relished this task.  That may be why I paid extra attention to Nonna drizzling the thick green oil over the tomatoes we were going to have for lunch.  I noticed that when she put it back in the cupboard, she placed it next to a clear bottle of oil.  I asked Nonna why she had 2 bottles of oil.  She explained to me that the clear bottle is used for frying and the green oil is for everything else. That afternoon I took notice on how delicious the tomato salad was.  That taste of olive oil was embedded into my memory.  When we came back to the US I often wondered why we didn’t have that same olive oil.  When I moved out of my parents’ home I was on a mission to find a comparable olive oil.  So, while my friends were all tasting their first beer I was tasting olive oil.

You think I am weird?  Recently I had the occasion to ask my son who went to Italy to visit with his grandmother at the age of 10 years old what he remembers most about that trip. I had been talking to my cousin who resides in Italy and her kids to this day talk about when Josh went to visit.  It was 19 years ago, so I wondered if my son even remembered.  And this is how I know that he is my son.  He said that he still thinks about that delicious tomato and tuna salad that my cousin made.  He still is searching to find that same taste! And I believe it’s the olive oil.

The reason both he and I are so crazed about this olive oil is that it wasn’t until the 1980’s that extra virgin olive oil was even made available in America. In the 1980’s the International Olive Oil Council started sponsoring and promoting research about the healthy “Mediterranean diet.”  This coincided with the Slow Food movement emerging from Turin, emphasizing the European style artisanal approach to crafting food products.  Finally, olive oil was distributed in the U.S. It was successful marketing of olive oil that contributed to the olive boom!  Because of the wide marketing campaign of healthy olive oil, consumption of olive oil worldwide from 1990 to present blew up.  The US consumption increased by 250%.  The United Kingdom increased by 763%. Consumption in Italy Greece and Spain increased minimally because it was always part of their diet. So, Olive Oil business has become a gold mine and everyone wants to get in on it.  So, that’s why you see so many more countries involved in growing olive trees and making oil.

As I have been talking to people and reading up about olive oil, I realized that many Americans although knowledgeable about the health benefits of olive oil, don’t know what a good olive oil is supposed to taste like. For that matter, Americans may not realize that to have health benefits it has to be unrefined extra virgin olive oil.  We have all become so accustomed to the cheaper supermarket big chain olive oils that we have no idea what a good olive oil is even supposed to taste like. Our palates have become accustomed the bad characteristics of Olive Oil as typical. That’s why I have this need to share with you what I have learned about Olive oils and what you may be missing out on!

Good Characteristics of Olive oil are the following:
Fruity, Bitter and pungent (the peppery characteristic you feel at the back of your throat. Olive oil should taste fresh and not heavy and oily.

The bad characteristics are: 
Fusty from olives that are gathered in piles.  Musty when olive is stored in humid environment. Sometimes metallic if it comes in contact with prolonged contact with metal during storage. And the most common is rancid.  It has gone bad. Almost like the taste of stale crackers that are made with fat. Olive oil only has a shell life of 2 years.  But once it’s opened you need to use it within a month or two.

During my seminar, we tasted olive oils from around the world. So, to understand what we tasted I went over a few things that are important when picking out an olive oil.

There are several factors that impact the taste of olive oils. So, that by understanding what you like will impact what country olive oil you will gravitate to.

  1. variety of olives used
  2. location and soil condition
  3. environmental factors and weather. 2 years ago, Italy had a disease that affected many olive groves.  This past year Spain has been having lots of rain that impacted the olives groves where production was at an all-time low.  You will see a rise in the price of Spanish olive oil.
  4. Olive ripeness. Green olives are bitter while ripe olives are fruity
  5. Timing of the harvest. If you wait too long the olives get too ripe and will bruise causing the olive oil to not taste good.
  6. Length of time between the harvest and pressing. The longer the wait between harvest and pressing the more the olive gets damaged and bruised yielding a terrible olive oil.  That’s why estate olive oil is so much better.  They go directly from the tree to the press.  The bigger national olive oils will collect olives from all over and transport them to a manufacturing plant.  The olives get too ripe and acquire mold.  They are cheaper because it is mass produced but the olive oil is not very good.
  7. The very best oils come from small producers who have complete control over their orchard, the harvesting of the fruit, the pressing of the olives, and the storage and eventual bottling of the product. Ripe olives are easily bruised…
  8. Additionally, the press and the bottling facility must be readily available, ideally on the farm itself. Ripe olives are easily bruised and must be held in small containers before pressing in order to avoid being squeezed by their own weight and begin deterioration. A controlled environment with ultra-sanitary conditions is paramount. The pressing process must be accomplished in the briefest time possible.
  9. Pressing technique. The best oils are pressed within a few hours, and certainly not to exceed 24 hours after the harvest, any delay beyond this time frame has a detrimental effect on the quality of the oil.  The pressing to extract the oil must happen quickly and at a controlled temperature of (ideally) of less than 80 degrees F.
  10. Packaging and storing.
  11. Being a fruit, olives contain natural antioxidants that protect the plant during its lifetime. When the olive tree is very old it contains more of these antioxidants. This is one of the reasons that olive trees are often hundreds of years old and create antioxidant rich products

Estate olive oils – are the cream of the crop.  They are produces using olives from a single farm.  The olives are usually handpicked and then pressed and bottles at the estate.  In Italy, they are called DOP.  These olives oils are more expensive.

Blends – two types of blends are either blends from different countries or olives from diverse areas of one country are combines.  The bulk blended oils are the most economical but are still high quality.

Color –

  1. Green comes from unripe olives and are slightly bitter.
  2. Emerald tinged have fruity, grassy and peppery that dominate the food that you use them on.
  3. Golden color is made from ripe olives. Golden olive oil has a milder, smoother buttery taste without bitterness. These are good with foods that you don’t want overshadowed with olive oil taste.

Acidity
To start with, if you purchase quality EVOO the acidity level is already low at no more than .8% (That’s less than 1%) Acidity levels are determined solely by the variety of olive and by production methods. Some olives have a naturally higher acidity level. If they are not harvested with care and quickly processed into olive oil they will have even greater levels. Some on the other hand have lower acidity to start but if they are not harvested and processed properly the levels will increase. This is why olives from the same variety and the same grove can produce different grades of olive oil. If the olives are picked and pressed within 24 hours, as all of the ones in my line are, they will never have acidity levels greater than the required .8%.  If oils are blended, as is done routinely with lower grade and refined olive oil it can produce lower acidity levels and then be passed off as “extra virgin”.

So long as the oil is real EVOO (and many are not even though they claim to be) there is no reason to choose based on acidity. It should be based on taste and what one wants to do with the olive oil

Refined Olive Oils
Only about 30 percent of all olive oil production ends at extracting the oil from the olives. Refining involved using solvents and high heat to neutralize the tastes of the oil. This allows producers to use olives that are not in the best condition, and blend from oils from a wide variety of sources (even countries) because the bad tastes resulting from oxidized olives and the mass production process are chemically removed. When you see “Pure Olive Oil” at the store, or a bottle that says simply “Olive Oil,” “Genuine”, “Light”, “certified”, these are refined.  Refined has no antioxidants! So, they don’t meet the criteria for International Olive Oil healthy diet.

HOW TO TASTE OLIVE OIL
Tasting olive oil straight is the best way to judge its quality. Pour a little in a small glass and warm the glass in one hand, while covering it with the other. Now put your nose into the glass to sense the aromas. Hopefully, it reminds you of things like fresh olives, grass, bananas and apples. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad.

STORING OLIVE OIL
You can keep unopened olive oil in a cool, dark place for up to two years (high quality olive oil will last longer than one that wasn’t great to begin with).

Once you open the container, the oil begins to degrade much faster. A good rule of thumb is to use it within a few months after opening. Keep the bottle tightly capped and away from heat and direct light. The best strategy is to use olive oil often, and go through it quickly.

Extra virgin olive oil and wine also share the same “enemies:” heat, oxygen and light.  Olive oils have a relatively short shelf life and once the bottles are opened and exposed to oxygen, the oils will naturally begin to break down and lose both their organoleptic and nutritive properties.  Freshness therefore, becomes a huge issue, although older oils can still be excellent cooking oils. Storage after purchase is also important.  If possible, extra virgin olives oils are best stored in a cool, dark place like a cabinet.  Do not store or display your oil on or near your stove or on a window sill.

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

  1. the oil must come from fresh olives that were milled within 24 hours of their harvest.
  2. it must be extracted by mechanical means, not from heat or chemicals. It’s called unrefined.
  3. They must not be treated chemically in any way.
  4. Being a fruit, olives contain natural antioxidants that protect the plant during its lifetime. When the olive tree is very old it contains more of these antioxidants. This is one of the reasons that olive trees are often hundreds of years old and create antioxidant rich products.
  5. Extra virgin oil is, in fact, fresh olive juice.

Extra-virgin olive oil (cold pressed) is the best. 

  But how do we know if it is the real thing and not a fraud olive oil?

7 Tips for Recognizing Real Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  1. Do not buy light olive oil or a blend; it isn’t virgin quality.
  2. When extra virgin olive oil costs less than $10 a liter it may not be real.
  3. Only buy oils in dark bottles, as this protects the oil from oxidation.
  4. Look for a seal from the International Olive Oil Council (IOC)
  5. Look for a harvesting date on the label.
  6. Olive oil can get old and rancid. A simple test for a “good” olive oil is to taste a little on a spoon. Not rancid, real olive oil will have a fruity taste in the front of your mouth and a peppery taste in the back of your mouth.
  7. How about the fridge test as stated by Dr Oz? He said that when you put a real extra-virgin olive oil in the refrigerator, it will become thick and cloudy as it cools completely. That is not a for sure test (some oils made from high-wax olive varieties will even solidify) according to a Fridge Test

Olive Oils from Around the World  
When buying olive oil, you’ll see varieties from all over the world.  Most of the world’s supply are grown in Spain, Italy and Greece.  Traditionally olive trees have been located in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea because they need hot summers and mild winters. But now other countries are participating in the production of Olive Oil which includes other oils from California, France, Turkey and even Israel!

HOW TO TASTE OLIVE OIL
Tasting olive oil straight is the best way to judge its quality. Pour a little in a small glass and warm the glass in one hand, while covering it with the other. Now put your nose into the glass to sense the aromas. Hopefully, it reminds you of things like fresh olives, grass, bananas and apples. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad.

How to Pick a good Olive Oil


  1. Look on label that it says Extra Virgin Olive Oil   ( Cold pressed or first pressed labels are just marketing terms.  All extra virgin olive oils are the first pressed and no heat is added
  2. )Europe has strict standards set by the International Olive Oil Council labeled as IOC. Thy insure that olives are processed soon after picking and that it passed the laboratory and IOC sensory tests.
  3. US doesn’t belong to IOC  but has the USDA which as similar practices but not as strict
  4. You cant accept that a bottle of extra virgin olive oil by its label. You need to look for certification that it was produced and processed in same place.

        a) PDO  Protected Designation of Origins.  Certificate that oil was     produced and processed in                     same place.

        b) DPO or DOP  Italian version of PDO

        c) AOC   French version of PDO

       d)PGI  Protected Geographical Indication – not as stringent as PDO but it does mean that one                                   stage of production, processing or preparation took place in one geographical region.

       e) US Standards          NAOOA  North American Olive Oil Association same as IOC for the US.

COOC California Olive Oil Council Seal – means it has gone thru laboratory                                                   and sensory tests.

       f) Harvest date tells you month and date olives were picked and   Olive oil have a 2 year shelf life  for certain olives.  But some olives in olive oils are best consumed within 12-18 months after harvest time.

       g) Best Before or Use by dates if it doesn’t have harvest date

5.  Bottles– don’t pay attention to fancy glass bottles but just notice if bottle is either opaque or tinted. They keep olive oil from being oxidized caused by light. Clear glass is a warning that olive oil may oxidize quicker and flavor is ruined.

6.   Storage– store olive oil in a cupboard away from heat and light

7.   Organic Olive Oil– free from chemical fertilizers.  BUT!  Olive trees in general are very hearty and they require little to no pesticide to grow.  Totally unlike our apple crops!  But most growers outside of US do not use any chemicals on their olive trees.  But if you worry then Organic is certified

8. Types of Olive Oils on the market

  • a) Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Few flavor defects, Vigorously tested for purity and quality. Free acidity level of less than .8%.  The low amount of processing means the olive oil type retains more polyphenols and anti oxidants than anyother types.
  •  b) Virgin Olive Oil – free acidity less than 2%  Minor Flavor alterations
  • c) Refined Olive Oil – Treated with heat and chemicals. Tastes neutral.  Tastes less like olives than virgin oils.  Free acidity is less than .3%
  • d) Olive oil – sometimes labels as pure or classic. Acidity level is less than 1%.  It’s a blend of 15-25 % virgin olive oil with refined olive to eliminate flavor flaws.
  • e) Light olive oil or extra light Olive oil- acidity level less than 1%  a mix of 5-10%  virgin olive oil with refined olive oil.  These aren’t labeled light because of calories.  Light in terms of flavor and then have the least antioxidants.

  9. Color – Don’t be fooled by color! High quality can fall between pale yellow to dark green.  It                depends on olive type, harvest time, growing region and climate

  10. Cooking with EVOO – can cook at moderate temperatures. Save the higher quality of extra virgin         olive oils for drizzling!

       

See our White Bean (Cannellini) Soup recipe.

Tour of Northern Italy’s Pasta and Sauces

These past two weekends I enjoyed giving seminars to the customers of Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie and in Wappinger Falls.  During the dreary winter months in January and February Adams Fairacre Farms gives the customers an opportunity to learn and enjoy some interesting subjects!  I was invited to share what I know as well.  So I gladly jumped in the fun.  I decided to bring everyone on a tour of Northern Italy’s pasta and sauces.  Not only did I set the mood with Italian music I set up the props.  On display was a painting of Tuscany set on an easel.  The table was set with an vivid Italian table cloth set with grapevine baskets filled with oranges.  Incidentally my grandfather made the huge basket from the vines from his vineyard. A separate table was set up with my portable kitchen.  My wonderful husband and daughter helped serve while lots of customers came to experience the fun event.  It was so fun that I decided to share with you all the fun facts and experience of this Tour of Northern Italy Pasta and Sauces.  But let me start off with some of my observations with our American pasta culture versus Italian.  Let me say I am an American in an Italian restaurant family so I am fully aware of our American pasta culture.  But when I go to Italy the differences are so obvious.  Is one wrong and the other right? No!  It’s just a cultural difference.  But it’s fun to compare!

Tour of Northern Italy’s Tour of Pasta and Sauces Seminar @Adamsfairacrefarms in Wappingers, NY

Some Pasta Facts

I will start off with talking about some misconceptions we Americans have about pasta.

 Americans seem to think that pasta to be good must be made freshly by hand.

    1.  Best way is made by an Italian grandmother using a rolling pin

    2. or by a machine that some of us have in our kitchen

    3.  or ready-made fresh pasta that we can find right here at Adams.

Americans think of dry pasta or in Italian (pasta secca)  found in boxes and plastic bags as substandard.

But no! In Italy most Italians eat dry pasta that comes out of a box! An exception is the northern region!  In Northern Italy fresh pasta is quite popular and most families make their own.

Fresh Pasta Facts

Northern Italy uses more fresh pasta than Southern Italy

Fresh pasta is usually made from softer wheats, though some durum semolina can be mixed in, and some is made with just durum, but that takes a lot of strength to work with.

In the south, some fresh pasta is made with just flour and water, but in the north it is almost always made with flour, eggs, salt and water. If it is to be used for stuffing, as in ravioli, a little milk is sometimes added.

6 major differences with the way we make pasta in the US

  1. We overcook the pasta

      According to Italians the biggest mistake that we Americans make is overcooking the pasta. We all know what aldente is. But pasta must be served as soon as it is drained. It gets a little crazy at my house when we drain the pasta.  My husband dishes out pasta.  I sauce it.  The kids pass out the dishes.  We must be fast!  Pasta is very important.

2. Cook in too little water

But another problem with making pasta is using too little water.  A pound of pasta should be cooked in 5 quarts of salted water vigorously boiling.   Too little water stews the pasta making it gummy and overcooked. Believe me, I too am guilty of this.  Sometimes I am too lazy to go to the cupboard and get the big pasta potout thinking it’s just my husband and I.  It’s a big mistake.  The pasta doesn’t cook evenly and the pasta sticks together.

Cooking the perfect pasta.

  1. Make sure its 5 quarts of water per pound of pasta. 
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3.  Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
  4. Place pasta in boiling salted water
  5. It will quickly come to a boil again.
  6. When pasta is done.  5-6 minutes (more for thicker pasta less for thinner like spaghettini or angel hair.
  7. Remove and drain but not too thoroughly.  Save 2 ladles of pasta water

3. Adding Oil to water

When you add oil to the cooking water for pasta will only make the pasta slippery and harder for the sauce to get absorbed into the pasta. Your pasta will lack the flavor of the sauce.

 

4. Huge Portions

When it comes to eating pasta, Italians are very measurement conscious. And it’s a very easy formula to follow: 100 grams (3-1/2 ounces) or less of pasta per person.

It is never a heaping portion like one you would expect in the States.” In the ’90s, Los Angeles Italian restaurants routinely served pasta in giant bowls, each portion enough to feed three or four.

The point of the dish is not the sauce but the pasta.  There should be just enough sauce to coat each strand lightly. There shouldn’t be puddles of sauce congealing in the bottom of the dish.

 5. Oversauce the pasta

A way to get the most flavor into the pasta about a minute or 2 before it’s done strain it.  Saving a ladle of pasta water then toss it in with the sauce and a ladle of the pasta water.  Let it finish cooking on the stove. And then quickly serve it.  This is called “pasta saltata in padella”.  But some further explanation of the sauce.  They don’t call it sauce or salsa.  They refer to it as condimento or condiment.  The condimento is just about a ¼ cup per serving

6.  Too much cheese on pasta

      Cheese is just a scant teaspoonful per serving.  In Italy the waiters come and quickly grate a little cheese on the pasta.  In our restaurant if the waitstaff weren’t attending each table to grating the cheese they would go and try to sprinkle a teaspoon of cheese.  But typically, the waitstaff we be grating and dumping loads of cheese on top of pasta!

Authentic Italian cooking is an art of simplicity and balance. It’s recognizing that less is often so much better than more.  AS I often talk about in my seminars.  Just like my sauces the 825 MAIN.  It’s very simple.  But it’s about the quality of the ingredients.  I am very picky about the ingredients.  As you will find out as I continue…… And as we try the different pasta and sauce for each region in the northern part of Italy you will begin to understand what I am talking about.

 So, let’s get to the fun part.  I am going to cover 4 northern regions of Italy.  I am picking a pasta that is popular in that area with a sauce or I should say condimento of the area.

Northern Italy Pasta Map

Piemonte

Agnolotti/Tortelloni

Most commonly crimped, square-shaped and stuffed with meat, agnolotti (or ‘priest hats’) is the primary pasta of Piedmont, in the northwestern region of Italy. Located in the lush-green foothills of the Alps and the Apennines, and surrounded by a wooded wilderness, Piemontese cuisine is typically tinged with the musky aromas of its mountainous backdrop. Perfect for poaching, agnolotti can also be added to a broth, but are best pan-fried in a sage and butter sauce and finished off with a dusting of white truffle.

For this recipe I use Rana brand of Tortelloni.  They are a fresh pasta found in the dairy section of Adams.  I used the Cheese Tortelloni and also the Spinach and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni.  I have to say I was partial to the Cheese one. I put it in a very simple butter/sage sauce.  The recipe follows. But the highlight of this dish is the shaving of truffles. In the Poughkeepsie Adams Fairacre Farms I was able to order a fresh black truffle that came from Burgundy, France.  While in Wappingers I had available the revered White Truffles that were sold in jar.  The truffle products are sold in the pasta section in the Wappinger store.  If you would like to read about some Truffle Facts continue on while the recipe follows.

Truffles

Truffle is a fungal tuber from Burgundy, France

     Truffles are quite unique in feature that separates them from other common fungi. Truffle has a rounded, below the earth fruiting body that can be lobed, with shallow to deep furrows and has yellowish, tan to dark brown skin. The interior is solid, white, marble like in white species and black in black species with narrow, white veins that tend to radiate from the base. Mature specimens possess a pungent, rich smell.

     Several species of tuber (truffle) mushrooms found naturally in the dense forests of Northern Hemisphere, especially Italy, Balkans, and France.

     The black perigord (French black) truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is mainly found the wooden forests of Southern Europe. They feature mottling pattern with streaks of white veins. They are the most sought after by the chefs all over the world for its very aromatic flesh.

      Other important black species are black summer truffle (T. aestivum) and Burgundy truffles (T. uncinatum) are also prized for their culinary values.

     The white truffles (T. magnatum) are the largest of truffles and found in the Northern Italy. White truffles are also highly accolade by the chefs for their powerful fragrance likened to mould, garlic, and smell of cheese.

     Some other species include those found in the US such as Oregon black truffle (T. gibbosum), Oregon brown truffle are also noted for their culinary values. Pecan truffle (T. lyoni) is found in the southern part of United States near the pecan tree cultivation.

Truffle harvesting

   ruffles are grown the wild close to oak, poplar, hazelnut, elm, pecans and beech trees. Mature truffles develop odors and emit volatile organic compounds and pheromones that attract wild animals. Truffle hunters search for them from autumn to winter with the help of trained dogs in these wooded forests.  In the past, hunters used to rely on pigs to sniff out these prized discoveries. Problem was, the pigs loved to eat them. In the 70’s they stopped using pigs. These days, well-trained dogs who don’t care for the taste are used for foraging.

Reasons why Italy has best truffles

    1. IT’S THE HOME OF THE WORLD’S BEST TRUFFLES

There are dozens of varieties of truffles in the world, but Italy’s white truffle is one of the most elusive, most delicious and most expensive. It’s found only from September to December and in just the right conditions, growing on the roots of trees under layers of damp leaves and dirt. 

     2. IT’S ALSO THE HOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE TRUFFLE

In 2007, two of the family’s hunters – Luciano and Cristiano Savini – unearthed a 1.28-kilogram (2-pound, 13-ounce) truffle that sold at auction for a whopping USD 330,000. That price is recognized by Guinness World Records as the most money ever paid at auction for a white truffle. You can check out a replica of the truffle at the headquarters. Fun fact: The dog that found the original was 14 years old.

White truffles are a rare delicacy: The short season for the mushrooms, the stratospheric prices ($2,000 a pound is not uncommon) and the intense aromas and flavors make this mostly something for the world’s super rich. Shaving a few grams of a white truffle on a dish such as risotto can send the price at a restaurant soaring into the triple digits.

Selection and storage

Fresh truffles are usually sold in the areas from which they are harvested. Choose firm, fleshly truffles, without bruises.

    In the markets one can choose dried truffles in airtight containers. Other novelty products such as truffle flavored sugar, salt, truffle honey, truffle oil, etc can also be found in the supermarkets. Truffles canned in water are also available in some stores.

   Eat them as soon as possible. To store, place them in the fridge fresh up to 1 week. Place cut truffles in an airtight container and cover them with Madeira or white wine. Canned truffles that are cut and covered with Madeira or a little oil for a month.

   Once at home, use them early. Place them in cool dry place in a wooden basket away from sunlight and moisture. Keep in the fridge for a few days, in a paper bag or a dish covered with a clean cloth.

Preparation and serving methods

    Truffle’s rarity in the nature makes them the most expensive items to use liberally in the dishes. Their usefulness counted just as gourmet food and to some extent as appetizer. Do not wash truffles -rub them gently with a soft brush. Cut them in slices, slivers, cubes or shaving.

Agnolotti or Tortelloni del Plin
 

Ingredients:

Package of Rana Tortelloni

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
8-10 tablespoons butter
10 sage leaves
1 cup grated Grana Padano
1 fresh white truffle (optional!)

Procedure:

  1. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh agnolotti/ tortelloni, stirring gently, and cook them for 3-4 minutes or until the agnolotti are bobbing on the surface of the water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Lay the sage leaves in the pan and heat until the butter is sizzling gently. Toast the leaves for about 1 minute, then remove them.
  3. Add 1 cup of water to the butter, then swirl the pan and simmer for about 2 minutes, reducing the liquid by half. Keep the sauce hot over very low heat.
  4. Drain the agnolotti and add them to the sauce in the pan. Toss and cook them for about 1 minute over medium heat until the sauce is bubbling. Remove the pan from the heat, add the grated cheese.
  5. Optional: Shave fresh white truffles over the pasta! 

Lombardia

Farfalle

Universally recognized as the ‘bow-tie’, farfalle borrows its name from the Italian word for ‘butterflies’. Despite its intricate design, this good-looking variety remains the signature pasta of the northwestern Italian region of Lombardy. Habitually blended with beetroot, spinach or squid-ink, farfalle is also available in an array of brilliant color combinations to include the vivid hues of the Italian flag. Owing to its sauce-holding-abilities, this pasta is best served with a simple tomato and basil concoction.

The Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie has Delverde Bow ties but the Adams in Wappingers has colorful artisanal Farfalle (bowtie) Pasta called Tarall’oro.  This dish is highlighted by my own 825 MAIN Marinara!

 Farfalle ala 825 MAIN Marinara

Ingredients:

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves and then very thinly sliced

1 lb. dried farfalle pasta

Grated Parmagiano Reggiano cheese

Procedure:

  1. In a 10- or 11-inch sauté pan, heat the jar of 825 MAIN Marinara over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is heated. Remove from the heat.
  2. Sprinkle on the basil and stir to combine thoroughly.
  3. While the sauce is warming up, bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a vigorous boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain it well.  
  4. Toss the pasta with three-quarters of the sauce and divide among individual serving bowls.
  5. Spoon a little of the remaining sauce over each serving and sprinkle on the cheese, if you like.

Emilia Romagna 

Strozzapreti: (larger version of Cavatelli)

Strozzapreti, (or ‘priest-choker’), is a hand-rolled variety of pasta from the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Its dubious name origin is unclear; one legend suggests that ‘Strozzapreti’ stems from the story of the gluttonous priests who choked on their pasta as a result of their insatiable appetite, another claims that housewives ‘choked’ the dough in such a rage, violent enough to ‘choke a priest’. Irregular in size and shape, strozzapreti is the larger version of cavatelli (‘little hollows’), and is made of flour, water, parmigiano-reggiano, and egg whites.

 The Cavatelli  that I used is in the frozen food section of Adams those are  made with ricotta cheese, eggs, flour, and salt.

Sauce is Adams marinara, mozzarella cheese, and grated cheese.

Cavatelli ala Adams Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

  1 jar of Adams Marinara Sauce

1 lb. of cavatelli or if you are lucky to find the larger version called Stozzapreti

Small ball of fresh mozzarella cut into chunks

Lots of grated Parmagiana Reggiano cheese

Procedure:

  1. In a pasta pot , heat the jar of Adams Marinara sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is heated. Remove from the heat.
  2.  Start a pot of salted boiling water for spaghetti.
  3. Add cavatelli/strozzapreti and cook according to directions
  4. Drain pasta saving a ladle of pasta water
  5. In pasta pot add the cavatelli adding a ladle of Adams Marinara Sauce and a ladle of pasta water.   
  6.  Add Mozzarella and grated cheese

Veneto: Venice

Venetian Bigoli –  The bigoli are a type of long pasta, which looks like a big spaghetto; they’re from Veneto, but they’re quite common and popular in the Eastern Lombardia. The name “bigoli” seems to result from the dialect term “bigàt” which means “worm” with regard to the shape of the pasta.

Bigoli in salsa  

Bigoli in salsa, long pasta cooked in a tasty fish sauce, is the only inclusion of pasta in the city’s traditional cuisine

Bigoli are a kind of pasta made with semolina flour (semola di grano tenero), salt, and water. They are like thick spaghetti, and similar to Tuscan pici or bringoli. The name is also used for a kind of wholewheat spaghetti typical to the town of Bassano del Grappa in the north of the Veneto and so these are also sometimes used. Normal spaghetti would works well if it’s all that you can find. In fact, in many Venetian restaurants today, spaghetti are served as bigoli. Most letter L ls are not pronounced in Venetian and so you will often see the word written as it’s said: bigoi.

Salsa

Salsa is the general word for sauce, but in this dish it refers to something very specific. The condiment is made from three ingredients only: white onions, water, and salted sardines or anchovies. White onions are a speciality of the town of Chioggia in the south of the Venetian lagoon. Sardines and anchovies are native to the Venetian lagoon. Although the sardine is the traditional ingredient of this dish, it really doesn’t matter which one you use. The two are very similar indeed and in Venetian have almost identical names. Sardine is sarda and anchovy sardon.

 This dish was the most time consuming.  It takes an hour for the onions to melt down before you add the anchovies.  I saved this dish for last because it is very aromatic and has a long lasting taste and I didn’t want to corrupt the tasting of the other pastas.  It’s the most different and not a popular dish in the US.  I was pleasantly surprised that the customers really enjoyed this dish!

     I also need to add that cheese if served in Venice is a huge No No!  But we are in America and we can do whatever we like!  I used La Bella fresh spaghetti for this dish since it was the most similar to Bigoli.

Bigoli in Salsa

  Ingredients:

2 white onions, finely chopped

2 TBS of extra virgin olive oil

water

25 salted sardine or anchovy fillets

1 pound of bigoli or fresh thick spaghetti

parsley, finely chopped

black pepper

 Procedure:

  1. Place the onions in a large frying with EV olive oil. 
  2. Cook on a low heat seating them until so soft that they are falling apart adding a little water so as not to color the onion. You are almost melting the onions! Takes about an hour.
  3. Finely chop the sardine/anchovy fillets and add the fish to the pan
  4.  Stir until the fish has dissolved in the into the onion mixture.
  5. Continue to cook for about five minutes.
  6. Bring a pan with 4 quarts of unsalted water to the boil.
  7. Cook the bigol/ spaghetti according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the frying pan with the sauce in it.
  9. Mix the pasta into the sauce, adding a little of the cooking water if necessary, and then serve topped with chopped parsley and plenty of ground black pepper.

Thank you for taking the journey through Northern Italy’s pasta and sauces!  Buon apetitto!!  I cant help but be Italian when I talk and talk and talk…especially with my hands!!

Cured Green Olive Recipe

Fresh Green Olives

Fresh Green Olives found at your area farm market. I got my fresh green olives at Adams Fairacre Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York

I grew up watching my grandparents on both sides of the family, can all kinds of produce besides just tomatoes.  Vegetables were marinated and jarred for the winter.  Peaches were peeled and halved in a sugary syrup. My family would also cure olives.  They were jarred in a salty brine and cured for months.  In the last few years since I retired from my life in the restaurant, I have had time to relive my upbringing.  I kept seeing raw green olives at Adams Fairacre Farms, our local farm market. I decided to try to cure my own olives.  One year I tried the saltwater brine version, while changing the water for months and fretting every time I forgot to! So, then the next year I found an easy recipe that cured olives in vinegar and to let it sit in extra virgin olive oil for 2 months.  The olives were delicious!  And what was surprisingly good was even the oil from the olives. My family and I just loved spreading it on crusty Italian bread! I couldn’t wait to do it again this year.   I decided to share my olive curing journey and hope you will try a hand at it too since olives are in season.

Cured Green Olives

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green olives
  • 1 carrot, finely dices
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 qt white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • ½ cup water
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cover the olive

Procedure:

  1. Wash and dry the olives making sure they are all firm and no bruises.  It’s if your green olives have a slight purplish tint.  They are just beginning to ripen.

2.     Make 4 incisions lengthwise on each olive spacing evenly.

3.      Place olives in a bowl or large jar.  Whatever you use make sure it’s not reactive. Add celery and carrots.  Then add the salt, water and vinegar solution to cover all the olives.

4.     Mix well and add a paper napkin on top to keep olives submerged.
5.       Stir the contents in the bowl once or twice a day.
6.      After 4 days the olives should have darkened slightly and become soft but not mushy.  If they are still hard wait another day.

7.       After 4th or 5th day drain olive mixture in a colander. Toss to get rid of all the liquid.
8.    Put the drained olive mixture in a clean jar or jars and cover the olive oil mixture with the extra virgin olive oil.  The olives need to be completely submerged in the olive oil.

9.      Place the jar of olives in a cool dark place.  I put mine in the fridge! Let them rest for 2 months before tasting.
10.       The olives will have a pleasant vinegary taste.  And don’t throw out the extra virgin olive oil.  It’s delicious!  Since it’s in the fridge it will thicken like butter and you can spread it like butter!!  Yum!

Dolce e Gabbana Meets 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce

825 MAIN Marinara Sauce meets Dolce e Gabbana!

As we were leaving Italy this past spring, after visiting my sister Giovanna, a boutique in the Napoli airport jumped out at me! We got to the airport in plenty of time and as we settled into our gate’s waiting area, I told my husband that I was a going for a walk. I think he was a little worried when he saw that I grabbed my pocket book. I urged him not to worry because I wasn’t buying clothes! I headed towards the most beautifully decorated boutique. Entering the boutique, Dolce e Gabbana spoke to me loud and clear. I patted my side to make sure I had my pocketbook!
Just a mere 15 minutes later I lugged a beautiful shopping bag to where Jim was sitting. As he glared at me, I joyfully exclaimed that I bought pasta!

I had filled my bag full of Pasta Di Martino! Jim looked at me with a puzzled look on his face.
“But Jim! It’s a real special pasta. It’s made in Gragnano on a hilltop between Monti Lattari and the Amalfi Coast not too far from the airport! Gragnano is famous for its air-dried, bronze-extruded pasta across the world. The Gragnano townsfolk call it white gold. Even though Gragnano has been making this pasta for hundreds of years, it was only in the 18th century that Pasta di Gragnano became widely known spreading all over Italy. In the last century Pasta di Gragnano began to travel beyond Italy’s borders to the rest of the world.”

I continued to tell him that there are 4 reasons this pasta is exceptional!

1. The land where the wheat is cultivated. The town of Gragnano is situated where there’s a right mix of wind, sun, and humidity. In the 18th century, the king of Napoli decided that only two places were suitable to cultivate the wheat for the rest of the population: Naples and Gragnano. The pasta also must be made by mixing durum wheat with the calcium-poor water of Monti Lattari.
2. The second reason is the carefully-developed process, which continues to be regulated by a strict standard of production. In 2013, the European Union declared PGI (Protected Geographical Indication): the pasta made under the name “Pasta di Gragnano” must be produced in a legally defined area that still corresponds to the territory indicated by the king of the Napoli about two centuries ago.
3. The dough must be extruded through rough bronze forms and, once it has taken shape, dry at low temperatures in the mountain air. The result of this long and traditional process is one of the finest pastas in the world. This pasta is called Bronze Cut.
4. And the last reason and what attracted me to the pasta in the first place is that Dolce e Gabbana ( An Italian luxury fashion house founded in 1985 in Legnano by Italian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana) signed the new look of Di Martino Pasta. A special edition celebrating Italian excellence through colors, symbols and monuments identifying the country.

I was feeling all smug and self important explaining all of this to Jim. And then he tells me that this isn’t new to him. Adams Fairacre Farms where he is the grocery manager carries this very pasta. In fact he had spoken to the international buyer for Pasta di Martino at the recent Food show. He actually ordered pasta with the Dolce e Gabbana look to sell at the Wappinger Falls, NY location. I am like, “Say what!!!” “Yes, we sell it at Adams”, Jim answered with his smug, self-important tone.

I couldn’t believe it. Adams Fairacre Farms is selling the Di Martino Pasta with the Dolce e Gabbana look. Wow! Not only is it being sold in Neiman Marcus and Bergdoff Goodmans. It is even featured in Vogue magazine. And now it’s available in our very own Hudson Valley at Adams Fairacre Farms, Wappinger Falls, NY!
When we arrived home from our trip, I marched myself into Adams to see for myself. There it was! Rows and rows of Pasta Di Martino pasta. So far only the mezzo rigatoni were packaged in the Dolce e Gabbana signed wrappers. I noticed they even have the infamous 24 inch spaghetti wrapped in the original blue paper that the Gragnano pasta was wrapped in hundreds of years ago. No other pasta is wrapped in that way.

I am astounded that we have the Crown Jewel of pasta wrapped in Dolce e Gabbana right here in Wappinger Falls and no one even noticed! Right under our very noses!! Like who knew!
Now that I have uncovered this gem in the Hudson Valley, you all better hurry in while supplies last! Because I sure did fill my cart at Adams Fairacre Farms in Wappinger Falls, NY!!

Love this beautiful pasta!! Can I wear ?

 

 


 

Shrimp Marinara using the 24 inch Pasta di Martino Spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce (authentic Napolitana marinara sauce to go with Napolitana Di Martino spaghetti)

1 lb of 24 inch Pasta Di Martino Spaghetti ( Each blue paper package holds 2 individually wrapped pounds of 24 inch spaghetti)

Salt
2 cloves of garlic cleaned and sliced thin
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine
Pinch of red pepper
1 lb of cleaned and deveined shrimp
3 sprigs fresh parsley – chopped
Fresh basil

Procedure:

1. Pour jar of 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce in a sauce pan. Warm sauce on medium heat.
2. Start a big pot of boiling water.
3. In a saute pan place extra virgin olive oil, sliced garlic, pinch of red pepper, and the shrimp. Cook on medium heat until the shrimp turn from opaque to white. Careful not to overcook. Less is better because you will be finishing cooking the shrimp with the sauce. Beware that overcooking makes shrimp tough.
4. Add the white wine and the chopped fresh parsley
5. Add the cooked shrimp mixture to warm 825 MAIN Marinara sauce.
6. Add broken up pieces of basil.
7. Add spaghetti to big pot of boiling water. No need to break spaghetti. It will fold over as it softens and nudge it down with thongs. Cook it al dente. Strain saving a half cup of pasta water.
8. Put strained spaghetti back in pot with the ½ cup of pasta water and a couple of ladles of the shrimp marinara sauce. Stir over medium heat until all spaghetti is coated.
9. Divide spaghetti amongst the plates and ladle the prepared Shrimp marinara sauce over. Serve with a leaf of basil on the side of plate.