Pairing Extra Virgin Olive Oils with Fish and Meat Dishes

Chefs have their own ways of choosing extra virgin olive oils for fish and meat dishes. The only rule is to insist on quality.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Nov. 1, 2021 12:00 UTC

Not all extra vir­gin olive oils (EVOOs) are cre­ated equal. An extra vir­gin olive oil’s fla­vor and healthy attrib­utes depend on a num­ber of fac­tors.

The olive vari­ety, where and how it is grown, and pro­cess­ing meth­ods all come into play when deter­min­ing olive oil qual­ity.

The deci­sions made at these stages cre­ate an entire world of oppor­tu­ni­ties for those who cook with extra vir­gin olive oils and are always seek­ing the per­fect match for their dishes.

Fish and the ele­gance of extra vir­gin

If we talk about Mediterranean cui­sine, extra vir­gin olive oil is an absolutely essen­tial ingre­di­ent, an active part of it,” Luca Collami, a chef at the Michelin-starred Grand Hotel di Arenzano, in Italy’s north-west­ern Liguria region, told Olive Oil Times.

That means that if you are cook­ing meat or cook­ing fish, you are very prob­a­bly using sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent EVOOs,” he added.

In Liguria, fish plays a cen­tral role in tra­di­tional cui­sine, and chefs often look for lighter notes and sub­tle fla­vors when prepar­ing local dishes.


If we were in Tuscany, we would have robust extra vir­gin olive oils, but that is a dif­fer­ent cui­sine,” Collami said. Here, I mostly use Olio Polla, a light, del­i­cate Taggiasca extra vir­gin olive oil, which brings deli­cious scents of herbs and arti­choke. When you pre­pare a fish serv­ing or cook fish, you want to use it for its ele­gant fla­vor.”

Home-made fla­vored EVOOs

Collami, who is the first Michelin-star holder in Genoa, also infuses his extra vir­gin olive oils with a vari­ety of herbs and spices to enhance his fish-based dishes.

When you have a high-qual­ity EVOO, such as ours, and, for instance, you want to have at your dis­po­si­tion an olive oil with a very notice­able note of basil, you can pre­pare it your­self and obtain the best results,” he said.

See Also:Cooking with Olive Oil

Collami dresses cod, sea bass, hake, porcini mush­rooms, fish stews, fish ravi­oli, soups and raw sal­ads with his oil infu­sions.

Ligurian olive oil is per­fect for fish because it gives it a bou­quet; it gives value to the ele­gance of a fish serv­ing with salt,” Collami said.

Meat demands stronger fla­vors

The only fat I use in the kitchen is local EVOO,” Collami explained. It may be that I use some but­ter, with meat, or even half of this and half of that.”

But some­times, when I need spe­cial fla­vors for serv­ings, and at home also, I use an organic Sicilian high-qual­ity EVOO,” he added.


He often reaches for a Nocellara del Belice mono­va­ri­etal, with an intense fla­vor, bit­ter and spicy.

This type of EVOO is on the oppo­site side of the spec­trum com­pared to Taggiasca oils. Chefs tend to pre­fer extra vir­gin olive oils with a more robust pro­file and dis­tinc­tive notes when cook­ing meat.

Exceptions abound, of course, such as for light, lean meat dishes like tartare where the chef might select a medium-inten­sity extra virgin with some lemon salt, pep­per and onion to fin­ish.

See Also:Olive Oil Basics

Grilled meat can also call for a less intense EVOO to enhance the orig­i­nal taste with­out smoth­er­ing it.

In our tra­di­tion, we do not need any­thing else, a grilled cut is per­fectly dressed by a high-qual­ity olive oil,” Antonella Scatigna, chef at the Taverna del Duca, a well-known restau­rant in Locorotondo, not far from Bari in Puglia, told Olive Oil Times.

More than just meat

Scatigna is used to choos­ing robust EVOOs for many of her more unusual spe­cial­ties as well.

We work with poor meat cuts, shanks, stewed lamb, don­key fil­let, sheep and give them value thanks to spe­cial cook­ing tech­niques,” she said. For instance, we have a calf cheek which cooks for at least 13 hours dipped in Primitivo wine at low tem­per­a­tures.”

Then we brown it in EVOO and sea­son it with car­rots, cel­ery and onions,” she added. Such a meat cut, which is so tough at the begin­ning, later becomes soft as but­ter, but it is our EVOO that gives it the final touch.”

Most of the Taverna menu focuses on meat and veg­eta­bles, for which Scatigna mostly uses high-qual­ity Leccino extra vir­gin olive oil.

See Also:Olive Brine, a Secret Kitchen Ingredient

Peppery, assertive, and some­times blended with a Coratina EVOO, Scatigna works with Leccino’s robust fla­vor.

While tra­di­tional meat cuts require more robust EVOO, qual­ity remains para­mount.

If you have an extra vir­gin olive oil which was not cor­rectly [made] nor high qual­ity as you expected, then it will ruin all your dishes,” Scatigna said. And vice versa, a high-qual­ity EVOO can lit­er­ally give a new dimen­sion to a sim­ple spaghetti serv­ing.”

You use it to cook some gar­lic, then a lit­tle chili pep­per and pour on it some raw EVOO and there you go with a great spaghetti serv­ing,” she added. We use it for legumes as well, for soups and it is also the only fat we use for our desserts.”

How to find the best EVOO

The food pair­ing app on the Official Guide to the World’s Best Olive Oils makes it easy to iden­tify the best match for your culi­nary cre­ation among this year’s award-win­ning oils.

Producers can often offer the best guid­ance when decid­ing which extra vir­gin olive oil to pair with cer­tain dishes.

You can­not really tell con­sumers which olive oil they should buy. There are so many dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, both in qual­ity and fla­vor,” Collami con­cluded. What you should do is meet local pro­duc­ers, taste their EVOOs, trust their sug­ges­tions and the tra­di­tion.”

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