22 Jan

DOP Olive Oils, Academia Barilla Style

by academia barilla chef,

I think that Leigh has done a good enough job discussing the details of Olive Oil and its production. Now I’d like to talk about how to use DOP Extra Virgin Olive Oils in a culinary setting.

There are two major distinctions I draw when using DOP Olive Oils in the kitchen. First, I taste each oil I am going to use and I create a history for each. I also like to know where the oil comes from and what olives it is composed of. Both of these ‘tests’ helps me understand how to use the Olive Oil.

For example, if the oil is fruity, velvety and smooth, I will use it most likely for salad dressings, traditional Ligurian Pesto, or when I plate a fish dish at the last moment. In other words, fruitier olive oils don’t get cooked, since I feel that the change of flavor they take on when they’re cooked can ruin the overall complexity of the olive taste.

A great example of a fruity olive oil like our Riviera dei Fiori Extra-Virgin Olive Oil DOP, which is made from Taggiasca olives.
I do make an exception to the rule with this olive oil, however: the only time I’ll use this oil to cook or bake is when I make traditional Ligurian flatbread Farinata (different from Focaccia, and made with chickpea flour. Eccellente!)

On the other hand, there are some olive oils that I would only use when making a pasta sauce, or when I am grilling meats. Their complexity and flavor is opened up further when they are heated. I call these complex Olive Oils “heat activated” because I can notice a distinct difference in their flavor after cooking with them. Many of these oils come from Tuscany or Puglia and are composed of Frantoio and Moraiolo olives.

They can be noted for their peppery flavors, and are perfect with heavier pasta sauces, artichoke dishes and traditional Tuscan pork roasts. Again I make an exception here: I like to add these DOP “heat activated” oils to one cold dish – Prosciutto e Melone. The pepper flavor really works well here.

Of course, cooking and using oils is really a personal decision, so depending on what flavors you like in your salad, pasta, meat and cheese dishes, you can tailor your oil use accordingly. I advise my students to taste a few oils before settling on one or two to use on a regular basis.

Academia Barilla has lots of Extra-Virgin DOP Olive Oils to choose from and to cook with. You can view our online catalog of Olive Oils here, and buy the Italian DOP olive oils that best match your gourmet cooking style.

Until next time, keep things well-oiled!

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