Sicily is an extraordinary region of Italy, full of history and traditions, and I was lucky enough to grow up there and experience it all. One of the traditions I loved most each year was the arrival of the “Olio nuovo or Novello” - the new first pressed olive oil of the season.
I have fond memories of travelling with my family on a Sunday, usually in the final weeks of October to the Fratoio (olive oil mill) and watching with excitement as tonnes of olives were delivered, pressed and then being mesmerised seeing the spout at the end of the process watching that delicious green liquid flow out and that feeling of wanting to drink it right from the tap!
The olive mill, vacant for most of the year, becomes a hive of activity in this period. While the olives are being pressed, all the producers, exhausted from harvesting their crops gather to chat, relax and often offer you a piece of bread drizzled with their freshly pressed olive oil.
BellaTerra Novello oil is extracted from olives all grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, it is a thick, smooth, bright green, peppery oil that brings back all those memories for me. The olives, all harvested by hand, are pressed within a few hours and to retain their lively fragrance and flavour are bottled within 48 hours of cold extraction. This new unfiltered olive oil is high in phenolic concentration helping with a host of health conditions like lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, balancing blood sugar and many more.
Novello oil is very versatile in the kitchen, although best consumed raw on bruschetta, hot bread, salads, drizzled on meat or fish, even a simple pasta dish with Novello and parmesan (you will be surprised how good this tastes) it can also be used in cooking if you desire.
The Novello oil reminds me of another Sicilian tradition ‘The feast of the dead’ or in Italian ‘Festa dei morti’ where on the night of the 2nd of November after midnight, it is said the deceased’ loved ones pass into the house loaded with gifts for children and hide them in various corners of the house. When you wake up in the morning, the table is covered in sweets, biscuits, candies, chocolates, dried fruit, pomegranates, and the sugar baby (a statue of a Sicilian character made out of sugar, however, nowadays more often cartoons characters). It was always exciting to wake up in the morning and find the table set and start the gift hunt!
On November 2nd, the main meal of the day is ‘Muffoletta’ a round sandwich (from ancient times) that has become one of the symbols of street food in Palermo. This sandwich is doused in the Novello olive oil and filled with anchovies, salt and pepper and grated caciocavallo cheese (a Sicilian hard cheese similar to Parmigiano Reggiano).
Did I manage to whet your appetite? You can order your BellaTerra Novello olive oil directly from our site.
500 g plain flour
250 ml water
8 g fresh yeast (3 grams of dry yeast)
1/2 tsp Sugar
5 g malt (or honey)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Novello)
Sesame seeds (for sprinkling on top)
Extra virgin olive oil (Novello)
Chili pepper (ground)
Grated Caciocavallo (or parmesan)
Dissolve the yeast in 100 ml of water taken from the quantity already measured.
Pour the flour, sugar, malt or a teaspoon (or honey), salt and water into the mixing bowl, start kneading, add the water with the yeast and continue to knead till it forms a dough and is not sticking to the sides of the bowl.
Add the Novello oil and continue to knead until the mixture is smooth. Finish on the work surface but without kneading, bringing the dough from the outside to the inside, continue like this for a few minutes and the mixture will become smooth. Put in the bowl, cover with cling film and let rise until doubled in size.
Place the raised dough onto a floured work surface, with a clean cut 8 equal pieces of about 100gms each, form the loaves and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush the surface of each loaf with water, sprinkle with sesame seeds and leave to rise for an hour.
After an hour, bake in a preheated oven at 200 ° for 30 minutes, being careful not to let them brown too much. Remove from the oven, let them cool a little and they are ready for the toppings.
In a dish, pour the Novello oil, season with pepper and chilli to taste and mix. Cut the Muffolettes in half, turn the lower part upside down in the oil mixture to soak it. Once generously covered, finish with the anchovy fillets, depending on your taste you can add either ricotta or grated caciocavallo (substitute with Parmigiano Reggiano).