#001 – Welcome to the O&O Blog!

With travel relatively curtailed in 2020 and maybe this year too, many people will be missing their regular trips abroad or merely their annual break. For a growing number of travellers their destinations are determined by their love of food, and of course sunshine. Brits would generally head to European countries to find continual sunshine and a variety of food experiences and cuisines which are a little more alien to us. Indeed, some will enrol into cookery schools and/or attend local food tours, and visit markets to generally experience ingredients or dishes that we would rarely bother to cook for ourselves at home.

Given the travel curtailment Olives&Oils have decided to bring the culinary continent to you, our customers. We’ll transport your mind to some beautiful locations from where our ‘foreign’ products are sourced or grown and we’ll introduce you to just some of the people behind those products and give you a feel for their lives and the surrounding areas. We hope you enjoy this series of blog posts, and if there are any Olives&Oils products about you’d like to know more and about which you’d like us to write or advise further, or perhaps you’d merely like to give us your feedback, then by all means please just drop us a line via the ‘Contact Us’ message facility within this website. Many thanks and please enjoy the blog.

For the first Blog post we are going to transport you off to Northern Italy…home to the most flavoursome Basil Pesto…and our supplier Sapori D’Italia.

BASIL PESTO

A symbol of agricultural activity suspended between the mountains and the sea Basil is at the heart of Italian pesto, and in particular Basilico Genovese.

Introduced by the Romans but cultivated in both protected environments and open fields Basilico Genovese is a product of Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) by the European Union, and it’s production centres around the Liguria region of Northern Italy. It is on these Ligurian hills that the aromatic basil has found the ideal conditions to grow. The microclimate of the area combined with the sun and the salty air give its leaves the ultimate balance of aroma and flavour – characteristics difficult to obtain anywhere else.

Liguria is a crescent-shaped region in northwest Italy where the locals can enjoy an average of 2,200 hours of sunshine and blue skies each year. Its Mediterranean coastline is known as the Italian Riviera. The five colourful fishing villages of the Cinque Terre, as well as stylish Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure, are on the eastern coast or Riviera di Levante. Portofino of course is well known as the playground of the rich and famous including Hollywood stars, famous actors and singers who used to spend their holidays in Portofino: among them were Rex Harrison, Rita Hayworth, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner, Vittorio Gassman, Marcello Mastroianni, Robert De Niro, Liza Minnelli and more.

Whilst the western coast, the Riviera di Ponente, is both home to Sanremo, a vintage resort with a turn-of-the-century casino and a flower-filled promenade it is also located relatively close to the French/Monaco border. Liguria’s capital is the port city of Genoa, and it’s in this region that the best basil pesto is produced. 

Our supplier, Salvatore Contino originally from Sicily, is now based with his wife Tiziana at a new processing factory in Brugnato, within the La Spezia province adjacent to D.O.P. Genovese Basil fields. It all began in 1982 in Sicily when Salvatore was lucky enough to spend more than eight years with the king of olives and vegetables marination, “U ‘zzi Totò” (Corsican for Uncle Toto), who gave him the passion and dedication for these products called “antipasti”. In 1992 he settled in the UK and established his business in Hertfordshire, but soon recognised that there was a greater opportunity worldwide, hence the Brugnato factory was born.

The ‘king of marinade’ from which Salvatore was inspired and from whom he learned the art that today is the true hallmark of the company’s superior quality, is depicted now as an effigy within the company logo, and hence the official 1937 establishment of the business.

Like many great artisans of many foods, the recipes are kept dear to the hearts of the producers, but we know that Salvatore’s Sapori D’Italia Pesto Ligure is made with a paste blend combined of fresh basil, cheese, pine kernels, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and spices. 

Cooking with Basil Pesto

Of course we all know the usual method of adding pesto to pasta to create a delicious sauce, but there are so many other ways to enjoy this unique product.

Indeed, when you google ‘ways to use pesto’ the results are staggering…from treating it as a substitute ‘tapenade’ by spreading it on warm toast, to using it as a drizzle dressing on any number of ingredients from salads – especially caprese, cheeses, meats (lamb cutlet as shown) poultry to fish (as a crust to a salmon fillet), in a baked sweet potato with tahini and pine nuts, as an addition to crushed garden peas, on pizzas (especially vegetarian), in Ciabatta stuffed with garlic, mushrooms and taleggio, to one of my favourites, ‘Potato, Green Beans and Pesto Lasagne’ or if you fancy an alternative lasagne, how about Spinach, Ricotta, and Pesto Lasagne?

The simple fact is that Basil Pesto is so versatile…that its uses are almost limitless. The beauty of the product is that you can always rustle up something delicious in only a few minutes if you are caught short by unexpected guests providing your store cupboard has dry pasta and your fridge has a tub of fresh basil pesto. And, what’s more you can serve it hot or cold, yes even on salads! If you wish to discover more wonderful recipes and things to do with basil pesto then here are ten fabulous ways to use your basil pesto but don’t check it out until you have bought your supply of Salvatore’s genuine Sapori D’Italia basil pesto from Olives&Oils online deli!

As the Italians say “ti auguro ogni bene!” (I wish you every good thing!)

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