Which Oil Makes for Good Italian?

by - 8:50 AM

Buongiorno miei amata amici!

"Un po 'd'olio d'oliva e un po' di vino equivale a un cuore sano e felice!"
This Italian proverb means "A bit of olive oil and a little wine equals a healthy and happy heart!"

When it comes to cooking, most Italians can name off four essential fats they employ in the kitchen.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Oil/Lard from Pork
  • Grape Seed Oil (or other seed oils)
All of these can be easily purchased in Northern America as well.
Olive Oil can have many flavors to it, but you want one that embellishes not detracts from the dish you are preparing. It is important to store your Olive and Seed oil in a dark and cool area to keep them from going rancid. The oil will keep for about a year once opened if stored properly, though in our home it will never last that long.
If you are trying to avoid the influence of olive in your dish, you will want to try a seed oil. While we have many options in the USA, my advice would be to use Grape Seed Oil, as it is healthier than most options.
Butter can be salted or unsalted, but be sure to adjust the salt in the recipe accordingly. If using butter over a higher heat, I mix in some oil with a high smoking point (such as EVOO or Grape Seed Oil). EVOO = Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Butter should be stored in the refrigerator except when bringing it to room temperature for baking.
Both oils also work well for seasoning cast iron because of their high smoking point.
While some people buy Lard, I tend to drain the grease off from our meat and use it fresh. I know my grandmother always kept a container of bacon grease on her stove top and we never did get ill from it. Maybe it was because she always used cast iron and it gets so hot that surely any bacteria would die. However, my fear keeps me using fresh pork when I need the flavor of pork oil.
In most Italian dishes the fats are interchangeable and will simply alter the flavor to create a variant of the usual recipe. As time moves forward, I have my favorite oils to use in preparation of dishes and it has become second nature.
*An added note: In our family, the ones who use these types of oils do not have high cholesterol, but the ones who use margarine, shortening, and vegetable oil (mostly made from soybean oil today) have high cholesterol. Perhaps this has no bearing on the results, but it leads me to believe natural fats are healthier.
Photo of Buon Appetito Giulianna

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