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side view of white plate with oil on the side and two slices of toasted bread. Plate on wooden table

20+ Ways Italians Use Their Extra Virgin Olive Oil + When They Don’t

Last updated on August 1st, 2023

I can’t tell you how many times I get asked “So do Italians use extra virgin olive oil for this, for that, etc.” since living in Italy. It seems to be a bit of a myth to may: How do Italians actually use their extra virgin olive oil?

I have to admit I wasn’t always confident in answering this question but now that I have been a part of an Italian family for so long, take part in the Tuscan olive harvest, and enjoy using it everyday – I know the answer. 

First, what is extra virgin olive oil? Extra virgin olive oil is considered the best quality olive oil made by cold-pressing the olives (meaning the olives are never heated above 27 C during the pressing). It’s said that cold pressed oil contains much more nutrients and health benefits than other methods of processing. 

Olive oil bottles displayed at a supermarket in Italy.

And did you know that Italy is the second largest producer of olive oil after Spain? No wonder they eat up to eight tablespoons per day (although the Mediterranean diet only states you need about four to reap its benefits). 

Want to know more? Check out our article 50 Olive Oil Facts for way more info than you ever wanted to know about olive oil!

How Italians Use Olive Oil

close up of beef carpaccio garnished with parmesan cheese and rocket/arugula
Olive Oil is a great finish to carpaccio
  1. Drizzled on salads (green salads, insalata caprese, etc.)
  2. Drizzled on grilled meats and vegetables
  3. Drizzle on boiled/steamed vegetables
  4. Drizzled on pasta before serving
  5. Drizzled on pizza or pinsa (specifically chili pepper infused olive oil)
  6. Drizzled on raw fish or meat
  7. Finishing soups
  8. Preserving foods sotto olio (under oil) such as artichokes. 
  9. Frying eggs/making frittata (Italian omlette)
  10. Pinzimonio (dipping fresh, seasonal vegetables into olive oil)
  11. Grilling meats and vegetables
  12. Sauteing vegetables
  13. Poaching fish
  14. Roasting (vegetables, meats, potatoes, fish)
  15. In pasta sauces
  16. In a soffritto (basic starter for many Italian dishes of sauteed carrot, celery and onion in lots of olive oil)
  17. Fettunta – (grilled bread with new olive oil and garlic) – not garlic bread
  18. Baking (rustic cakes, not pastry)
  19. Pan frying various meats
  20. Moisturizing hands
  21. On hair and scalp
  22. In gelato recipes (this is a fairly new trend)
close up of homemade mozzarella salad garnished with olive oil and basil
Olive oil is used in almost all Italian salads

We Recommend: Picking up an olive oil dispenser in Italy to keep your olive oil the freshest the longest time possible. And read up on How to Store Olive Oil.

Things Italians Don’t Use EVOO For

side view od several pecorino cheese forms stacked with top cheeses cut open
Italians don’t ever drizzle olive oil on cheese
  1. Dipping bread in while waiting for a meal to arrive.
  2. Many northern Italian dishes (notherns tend to use a lot more butter).
  3. Deep frying (Italians use regular olive oil or other canola or peanut oils for deep frying, generally speaking). 
  4. Drizzled on cheeses
  5. Drizzled on sandwiches
top view of a bottle of friggifacile oil in large red container on wooden background
Friggifacile is a commonly used light oil to fry with in Italy

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