Food Adventures

Friday, January 11, 2008

Olio nuovo

It’s January and the days are short, cold and often gloomy. The spring is far away and the memories of sunny places and meals full of sunshine seem unreal. There aren’t too many green things that taste natural, but one never fails to put a smile on my face and remind me of sunny days in Italy, great food, and beautiful vistas—olio nuovo. For those of you who have not heard me gush about olio nuovo and have not had the pleasure to come over and share some, here is a brief explanation of what it is:
Olio nuovo (literally ‘new oil’) is the (extra virgin) olive oil just pressed from the 2007 olive harvest. The olive harvest happens in November or early December (depending on the region and weather) and the olives are almost immediately pressed into olive oil. The fresh oil (which is often not filtered) is strong, pungent and greener than any extra virgin olive oil I have ever seen. Because it is unfiltered, it contains some solids, which are partly responsible for the vibrant green color and the cloudy appearance that give the oil its charm. It is by far the tastiest extra virgin olive oil you will ever taste.

For the past two years, I have ordered my olio nuovo from Casa de Case (, a SF company that imports olio nuovo directly from Frantoio Olivestri in Umbria. The arrival of the 5-liter can is always a much-anticipated and joyous event. I immediately contact my friends who appreciate the oil and the list of visitors grows. It’s hard to resist this green nectar that tastes like nothing you’ve had before and cannot be compared even to the best of extra virgin olive oils that are not freshly pressed. It’s strong, pungent, peppery, and complex. For me, it brings back memories of green Tuscany (the oil is technically form Umbria, but the property is very close to the Tuscan border and the oil has some of the features of Tuscan olive oils), vineyards and olive groves and tasty dish after tasty dish.

Because the oil contains solids, it is less stable than regular oil and is best consumed quickly, which is not an issue for me. I enjoy it at least once (and often twice) a day, with some crusty Italian bread and good wine.

Nothing makes winter meals tastier and more cheery than olio nuovo and daydreams of the next trip to Italy.

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