Last updated on September 18th, 2023
Fettunta – it’s just bread and oil, right?
NO! Fettunta is so much more than that, especially to Tuscans. The first fettunta represents the year’s olive harvest, in which locals have invested so much time, energy, love and passion. It’s the best way to try the olio nuovo or new, freshly-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
The Tuscan olive harvest typically happens between mid October and the end of November, depending on the weather and when the olives are at their prime. The window is quite large, about 6-7 weeks, and within that period the olives are more-or-less ready to be pressed. Some like to get a head start in mid-October but many prefer to wait until at least the first week in November to ensure the olives are mature enough.
Enjoying fettunta is an important and special time for Tuscans, because if you ask them, they’ll tell you they don’t make olive oil for money or profit. Rather, it’s a tradition, a passion, carried down from one generation to the next and the first fettunta that they eat embodies not only the tradition of oil making in Tuscany but the tradition of good food and the importance of the local food system.
So, if you happen to be in Tuscany from mid-October (more or less) to late November, be sure to get your hands on some fettunta and bring home some of the freshly-pressed olive oil!
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What is Fettunta?
Fettunta stems from the Tuscan dialect fetta unta meaning oily slice.
That is exactly what this typical Tuscan appetizer/snack is: a toasted slice of bread doused in freshly-pressed extra virgin olive oil (olio nuovo) and sprinkled with salt. Read more about Traditional Foods of Tuscany.
There is nothing particularly fancy or special about fettunta. It was invented as a humble and cheap way to best taste the new oil that was produced each fall. The tradition of going to the local frantoio or olive mill and watching your own olives being pressed and tasting the green, spicy oil via fettunta with a glass of red wine is everlasting and one of the most beautiful aspects of Tuscan life.
The unsalted bread slices should be about ¼ inch thick and toasted to a golden color. The toasting should be even, with a dark brown edge, and crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.
The bread should be grilled (or toasted). Hot off the grill, the bread might be rubbed with fresh garlic (the heat from the grill will melt the garlic as you press firmly down) and should be generously drizzled with olio nuovo (the newest oil) and sprinkled with salt. Fettunta should be served warm with plenty of napkins and a glass of red wine.
Fettunta will either be made with or without garlic and Italians generally believe in one or the other. Many Italians prefer it without garlic because it takes away from the flavor of the new oil. Others, however, prefer the garlic as there is nothing quite like the flavor of freshly melted garlic on a slice of grilled bread. Two schools of thought, both good in my opinion. Try them both and choose for yourself!
Where is Fettunta Eaten in Italy?
Although the concept of grilled bread and oil is common throughout Italy, especially in regions where olive oil is produced, the so-called fettunta originated in Tuscany where you will see it on menus at typical trattorie and osterie.
The original way of preparing fettunta is with Tuscan bread, which is made without salt (a tax was imposed during the Middle Ages and thus, people learned to bake bread without it). In other regions you will notice it is made with other kinds of bread, typically the regional favorite.
When Do Italians Eat Fettunta?
The absolute best time to eat fettunta is the day of the olive pressing at the mill. It is tradition to enjoy fettunta and red wine as you wait for your spicy, green oil to be processed. The spicy, distinct flavor of olio nuovo is gone within a couple of days and the spicy notes and intense aromas decrease dramatically in the following weeks. Because of this, fettunta is most commonly enjoyed around the period of the olive harvest in Tuscany in the fall.
Fettunta is eaten year-round but it is known as pane olio, or oiled bread, and is characterized by the use of normal extra virgin olive oil, instead of freshly pressed bright green cloudy oil. Pane olio is a traditional childhood snack after school for Tuscan children and even a favorite among adults as a small snack to hold them over before dinner.
Fact: Pane olio differs from fettunta in the oil that is used on the bread. Pane olio is made with extra virgin olive oil meanwhile fettunta is made with freshly pressed extra-virgin olive oil, literally fresh out of the mill and can only be made for a couple of days after the pressing.
The Difference Between Fettunta and Bruschetta
Bruschetta (pronounced broo-skeht-tah) is a slice of grilled or toasted, typically rubbed with garlic and topped with extra virgin olive oil and salt. It can then be chopped tomatoes and sometimes fresh basil, but not always You will see bruschetta year-round in Italy but it is best enjoyed when the tomatoes are vine-ripe in the summer.
How to Make Fettunta Like an Italian
- Cut a thin slice of Tuscan (unsalted) bread, about ¼ inch thick.
- Preferably you should toast the bread over a grill but it can be done in a toaster.
- If you are using garlic, peel one clove and have it ready for when the bread is ready.
- The moment the bread is toasted or finishes grilling, gently rub the hot bread with the clove of garlic (the heat will melt the clove as you rub it) once – no need to keep rubbing until the garlic is gone.
- Liberally drizzle the best olive oil you can find and generously sprinkle with large crystal sea salt or flake salt such as Malden.
- Enjoy immediately with a glass of red wine.
We Recommend: Picking up an olive oil dispenser in Italy to keep your olive oil the freshest the longest time possible.
What to Eat with Fettunta
Fettunta is not typically served alongside other main dishes in Italy but it can appear on the table with other appetizers typical of Tuscany, including:
- affettati misti – local charcuterie
- pecorino – a variety of local sheep’s milk cheese
And don’t forget, you should always enjoy fettunta with a glass of Tuscan red wine like a Chianti Classico.
How to Pronounce Fettunta
Fettunta is pronounced feht-toon-tah.
No, garlic bread is made by baking bread with butter or butter and oil with plenty of garlic and sometimes herbs. Fattunta is made with oil, not butter and grilled, not baked. If garlic is used, it’s used sparingly, not in excess as you see in a typical garlic bread recipe. You may want to read Is There Garlic Bread in Italy?
Olio nuovo is characterized by its very spicy flavor and bright green, cloudy appearance. Most people who aren’t used to this kind of oil actually might not like it as it seems overly spicy and almost bitter rather than the sweet, full bodied, well-rounded extra-virgin olive oil that we think of. It does take some getting used to but it’s fantastic.
You can freeze small amounts of new oil which will lock in the nutritional profile, spicy taste and beautiful green color. When you are ready to have some freshly pressed new oil in the middle of April just defrost it and you can have fettunta any time of the year.
Fettunta is made with freshly pressed olive oil, within a couple of days of the pressing while pane olio can be made with any extra virgin olive oil.