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Basic Bruschetta (Bruschetta di Morea)
Bruschetta (pronounced "broosketta") is essentially toasted bread with toppings, but becomes a uniquely Italian appetizer when properly prepared. In each region of Italy you will find different ingredients for the toppings, but the basics are used here. In Campania, the tomatoes and garlic seem to have more flavor than elsewhere, and the bread more perfect for bruschetta.
Bruschetta is the dish that brings to life the differences of fine olive oil, so try it with several different brands to find the one you prefer. In Toscana, a more refined version becomes Crostini, the little toasts with toppings of chopped liver and such.
- Good Italian bread — in Toscana, the bread is unsalted. In Campania, the bread is salted and more flavorful. We prefer the latter, but try both. In the store look for large loaves of Italian bread with a nice crust, firm, but soft inside. In the Fresh Fields stores near where we live, we use the Pano Bigio or Ciabatta bread, pre-sliced.
- Sweet or fruity extra virgin olive oil — the olive oil really makes a difference in this recipe, so if you don’t have good oil, don’t bother. We like the sweet oils from Lucca, the slightly peppery oils from around Siena, and the fruity oils from Lazio, Umbria, or Campania. Try our Fonte di Foiano Riflessi or Tenuta Lenzini selections.
- Ripe, fresh tomatoes — flavorful tomatoes are the topping, so look for nice red Roma type or the common round tomatoes. Homegrown of any type will do. Meaty tomatoes are best, but don’t use the giant beefsteak type. Don’t bother if you don’t have good tomatoes because you will be disappointed.
- Garlic — of course. Cut several cloves in half just before using.
Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, but do not mince and do not leave large slices. Place in a medium bowl. The pieces should be of a size that you can spoon onto the bread, about 1/4 inch.
Add a bit of oil and mix with the tomatoes. The amount of oil to add is that which will make the juice slightly yellow in color. A little salt and pepper can be added as you like. Add the secret ingredient now if you know what it is.
Grill the bread on an outdoor grill until both sides are slightly toasted. Some people like to drizzle oil onto the bread before grilling to give it a little more golden color. Your choice…
As you take the bread off the grill, rub with cut cloves of garlic on one side so that the flavor goes into the bread, but don’t overdo it if you have to kiss somebody you don’t know later.
If the slices of bread are large, you may choose to cut them in half, but otherwise, spoon the tomatoes over the slices and serve, or let the guests do their own spooning.
N.B. — if you don’t have an outdoor grill, use the toaster or oven. The fresher the ingredients and the better the oil, the happier you will be with the result. This goes great with a nice white wine such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, or an Avellino, or a Chianti Classico if you prefer red wine. Signora Morea says the secret ingredient is … we’ll tell you if you buy some oil.
Insalata Caprese — Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
This recipe is the quintessential cool summer salad, originating in Capri, in the warm climate of Campania. The freshness of the tomatoes is very important to the taste. In Italy, mozzarella is assumed to be buffalo mozzarella. Mozzarella from cow’s milk is usually sold in the stores as "fiore di latte" instead. In the US, you can find mozzarella di bufalo in Italian and gourmet stores.
- 3-4 T. fruity extra virgin olive oil such (We recommend La Poderina Toscana Oro, Quattrociocchi Olivastra, Olio del Carmine, or Titone).
- 1 clove garlic
- 4-6 large leaves of fresh basil
- 2-3 medium ripe tomatoes
- 1-2 rounds fresh mozzarella (about 6-8 oz.)
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cut the garlic and rub a serving dish lightly, then discard the garlic.
Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices, discarding the top and bottom if you choose. Slice the mozzarella into slices approximately the same size as the tomato slices, interleaving the slices. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Chop the basil roughly and sprinkle on top of the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Drizzle the olive oil over the entire dish. Let sit for a few minutes, then serve immediately.
Serves: 4 persons as an appetizer or salad.
Spiedini di pollo— Grilled skewers of chicken and rosemary
Spiedino is the Italian word for skewers, and so Spiedini are skewers similar to shish kabob. For best flavor, use twigs of rosemary instead of the usual skewers. If you do not have rosemary twigs, then try wooden skewers that have been wrapped with rosemary. If you do use wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for an hour so they do not burn when you place the meat on the grill.
- 1 1/2 lbs. fresh boneless chicken meat, cut into chunks about 1 1/2 inches square. Breast or thigh meat works best.
- Twigs of rosemary, about six inches long and about 1/8 inch in diameter at the thickest part
- As a side dish, we suggest grilled, sliced Italian vegetables, such as zucchini, onion, sweet red peppers
- For the marinade:
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (try a selection from DeCarlo or Le Tre Colonne)
- 3 cloves of fresh garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
Cut the meat into chunks, and place in a glass or plastic container with a round bottom. Add salt and pepper as you like, and mix well with the meat. Chop the garlic roughly, and add to the meat, again mixing well. Pour the olive oil over the meat and again mix well. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes to one hour in the refrigerator. Note: If you are not using rosemary as the skewer, add three or four sprigs of rosemary to the mixture as well.
For the vegetables, slice into large chunks and skewer with wooden skewers, and set these aside for later.
Cut the end of the rosemary twigs at an angle so that each has a sharp end. Remove the chicken and skewer the chicken meat on the rosemary twigs, pushing the chunk to about an inch of the end of the twig. Continue until the skewer is completely full to within a half inch of the sharp end.
Grill the skewers until the meat is done, about 5-7 minutes, turning to grill all sides. Since the oil will flame up, watch that the meat cooks evenly through.
If serving grilled vegetables as well, put these on the grill at the same time as the chicken, but adjust the cooking time so that the vegetables are evenly soft and grilled.
Serves: 4 persons, one or two skewers per person
Pepata di Cozze — Steamed mussels with black pepper
This recipe is a typical dish from Puglia, but we had a variation at Beppe in New York recently. The essence of this dish is the peppery taste, which is quite different from the usual steamed mussel preparation.
- 1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil (such as an oil from Puglia, Sardinia, or Sicily)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/3 C. parsley
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 small fillet anchovy, chopped
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 c. dry white wine
- 1 t. lemon juice
- 1-2 T. coarsely ground black pepper
- 4 lb. fresh, cleaned mussels
Chop the celery, garlic and parsley and lemon zest together. Place the vegetables into a large saucepan and simmer in olive oil until soft. Add the anchovy pieces and blend all ingredients well.
Add the wine and lemon juice. Add the mussels and pepper, and cook on high. Stir the contents so that the mussels are evenly cooked until all the shells are opened, or for about 10 minutes.
Remove the mussels with a large spoon or tongs into serving dishes. Boil the liquid a bit longer if the vegetables are not quite soft, then strain and then spoon the liquid over the mussels. Serve immediately.
Serves: 4 persons as an entree, or 6 as an appetizer.
Pasta Primavera with Tenuta di Capezzana
This can be a very quick delightfully fresh flavored dinner. It’s best to let the ingredients marinate for about an hour, but you can toss it together sooner if needed. If you’re in a hurry chop the tomatoes without removing the skin or seeds. This is a perfect summer meal, and brings a taste of summer to cool winter days as well.
- 2-3 Garlic cloves
- 1 bunch basil, leaves chopped
- 6 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- ¼ - ½ C Black Olives, chopped
- Sea Salt (Ravida) to taste
- ¼+C Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Capezzana); more as needed
- 1 lb. Cappellini or Angel Hair pasta
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
Combine garlic, tomato, basil, olives, and olive oil in a non-reactive bowl. Let sit for 30-60 minutes. Cook pasta according to package directions and be sure to drain when al dente. Remove garlic. Add tomato “sauce” to pasta, and more olive oil if needed. Serve with freshly grated cheese.
For another quick and flavorful dinner, try Rocket Pasta. It can be fully prepared in the time that it takes to boil water and cook Rigatoni.
- 1 lb. Rigatoni pasta
- 1 clove garlic
- 2T extra virgin olive oil (try a Tuscan, such as Grand Cru or 1979 from Fonte di Foiano)
- 5 oz Rocket/Arugula*, finely chopped
- 2-3 tomatoes, heirloom/on the vine preferred
- Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
While rigatoni cooks, begin to sauté one clove of garlic in 2T olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat.
Finely chop arugula (5 oz bag) and 2-3 tomatoes (separately).
Remove garlic (when softened but not brown), stir in chopped tomatoes.
Just before draining pasta, add arugula to tomatoes. Drain pasta, stir into arugula (rocket) and tomatoes. Serve with Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated.
*If you don’t have a farmer’s market you’ll find Arugula in the bagged lettuce area of better grocery stores.
Dipping Oil Herbs and Spices
Combine your favorite combination of the following herbs and spices for a great dipping oil. Be sure to use fresh Italian bread, preferably a Tuscan ciabatta.
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. parsley flakes
- 1 sm clove finely chopped garlic
- 1 tsp. Ravida Sea Salt
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (try Ravida or Titone)
Combine your favorites, let the flavors blend for 10 minutes, and serve with your favorite bread.