Think of Italian cooking and one of your first thoughts will surely be of olive oil. However, just as different grape varieties produce different wines in different regions, so different parts of Italy produce their own take on this versatile oil.Sicily is no different in this respect. When it comes to the province of Ragusa, you can expect to enjoy all manner of dishes graced with a glug of the local olive oil. Everything you taste here will no doubt be the Tonda Iblea variety. It is hugely versatile and it is this versatility that makes it so appealing. And you’ll notice complex notes and gentle aromas with the oils from this region, just as you would in the wine world.
Mountainous regions and soils are responsible for much of the delights to be found hiding inside many a bottle of Tonda Iblea olive oil, just waiting to be let out. While some olives used in olive oil making are hybrids, this isn’t the case here. If you think many of the foods you taste in Ragusa have a certain ‘something’ about them, you can almost certainly put that down to the local oil used in the recipes.
It’s versatile as well as pure – ideal for drizzling over salads as well as being used in the preparation of numerous dishes. This is a smooth oil, one with a depth of flavour not all olive oils can impart.
So often, olive oil is used almost as an afterthought in a recipe. Here in Ragusa, it is an ingredient all of itself. It’s an important one too, forged and created from the very earth itself, and from the climate and situation the olive trees are grown in. The fact that the olives used in its creation are picked at the perfect moment of ripeness, just before they begin to turn black, is part of the reason for the unique flavour.
Even the name is local. The Iblei Mountains nearby inspired the name of the particular variety of olive that goes into making Tonda Iblea. If you wish to take some back to your villa to use in your own creations, look for one that promises 100% Tonda Ilbea olives. This ensures you will get the most intense and pleasing flavour, rather than watering it down a little with another olive variety. Seize the moment to appreciate the conditions that go into the making of this marvellous Ragusa-based olive oil.