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The best oils for sauces

Choosing the proper oil requires balancing the fruity notes with the texture, the fluidity, the equilibrium and the intensity of the bitter and spicy notes

Luigi Caricato

About the matching of oils and foods there is still much to learn. Two are the main elements to be taken into account: the intensity of smell notes (i.e. the intensity of the fruity notes) and the texture in the mouth, together with the fluidity, the equilibrium and the intensity of the bitter and spicy notes and the astringency.

As for sauces it is important to say the extra virgin olive oil has a pivotal role as a nonstick and lubricating agent. It is necessary to determine the creaminess of the sauce. Extra virgin olive oil has a strong seasoning power, without prevaricating other ingredients, but it is an emulsifying and aggregating element. Hence, in the following, some suggestions to avoid main errors in matchings are presented.

With white and delicate sauces you should use delicate, sweet, smooth and aromatic oils. With dark sauces mild fruity oils with quite strong olfactory elements and bitter and spicy notes should be used, as long as not unbalanced, in order to no produce taste discontinuities. Very fruity oils can be used just in some specific situations. For instance, bitter and spicy oils can be employed to make warm tomato-based sauces, in all variants (e.g. the classic Occitan or Neapolitan tomato sauces, or the very spicy ones). Of course sauces really changes a food: it is important to act with moderation, without altering the natural equilibrium.

As a rule of thumb, slightly fruity oils are used for mayonnaises, green and mixed sauces, chestnut sauces and egg sauces.

Mild fruity oils are indicated for tuna-based sauces, pizzaiola sauces, anchovy and caper sauces, pesto and remoulade sauce.

Very fruity but not bitter oils, finally, are employed in warm tomato sauces, in vinaigrette and in sweet-sour sauces.

Some examples

Slightly fruity extra virgin olive oil is normally used for mixed sauces on fish, on green sauces on boiled meats. It can also be used to all kinds of mayonnaise on fish and seafood or in chestnut sauces on pasta or salads. Finally, it is typically used in egg-based sauces on white sauces, fish and vegetables.

Mild fruity extra virgin oil is used with tuna-based sauces, fish and vegetables, either cooked or raw. It can be used in pizzaiola sauces on pastas, in truffle sauces on risotto or chicken or in pesto on trenette pasta or lasagne.

Finally, the strongly fruity extra virgin olive oil can be used on warm tomato-based sauces, like the Neapolitan or the Occitan sauces, or on the ragù bolognaise sauce.

by Luigi Caricato
02 april 2012, Food & Fun > Gastronomy