Culture, People

Honoring the Harvest: Celebrate Olivagando with Olive Oil Cake

Celebrating Olivagando

What is Olivagando?

Olivagando is a two-day festival that celebrates the la dolce goccia or “sweet drop” of high-quality olive oil. Olives are a product of Italy that have permeated and sustained Italian food and culture for thousands of years. During Olivagando, oil mills, growers, companies, and conossiers come together to sample and celebrate the production and consumption of olive oil throughout Italy. 

While olive oil tasting is a central part of the festival, there are also a wide variety of other Italian foods showcased such as wine, cheese, cured meats, truffles, and newly harvested walnuts and chestnuts. The second day of this autumn festival incorporates St. Clement’s Feast Day where the new olive oil is blessed in ceremonies by local priests. 

While Olivagando celebrations take place throughout Italy, the Trasimeno region of Italy is home to the largest festival where olives and traditional Italian food and culture intersect in a joyous jubilee.

This article is one part of our Honoring the Harvest series, which explores how different cultures celebrate traditional dishes.

When is Olivagando?

This two-day festival is held between Halloween and Christmas when the olive production is coming to an end for the season. It is usually scheduled to fall sometime in November in conjunction with the feast day of St. Clement, who is the patron saint of metalworkers and blacksmiths.

More about Olive Oil….

Olive oil, a liquid made from olives, is a staple crop of the Mediterranean Basin and featured prominently in Italian, Greek, and Spanish cooking. Olive oil can also be found in soaps, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even oil lamps. Spain currently produces the largest amount of olive oil in the world in terms of volume, with Italy coming close behind. Greeks, however, consume the most olive oil per capita in the world. 

Selecting a high-quality olive oil is about more than meets the eye. Different varieties are best suited to different types of dishes. Fresh oil is obviously superior as older oils tend to deteriorate over time. The tasting notes present in the olive oil can be greatly influenced by the region and timing of the harvest. Ripe olives are slightly sweet while less mature olives can have a spicy flavor.

Words to Know Before You Go

Olio d'oliva or oleo: Olive oil

Mangiamo: Let’s eat

Cibo: food
Gelato: ice cream
Panini: sandwiches

Listen to the full interview with Italian Chef Chuck Aflitto on celebrating Olivagando and the importance of olive oil in Italian cooking and culture.

Interested in learning Italian?

Get a Taste: Try Olive Oil Cake

If you’re not ready to dive into olive oil tasting just yet, this popular Italian dessert gives a taste of high-quality olive oil. While using the oil in baking may not bring out as much complexity, olive oil cake itself is a moist, slightly sweet, fluffy mouthful that’s everything a cake should be.

Olive Oil Cake Recipe

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon orange blossom water or extract
1 1/4 cups cake flour
¼-½ cup confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut and line a 8- by 3-inch round cake pan with parchment paper. Spray with cooking or baking spray.

Whisk sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together for about one minute until no lumps remain. Add olive oil, buttermilk, egg, and orange blossom water or extract. Whisk until smooth and slightly foamy. Sift in cake flour and fold in until combined. Scrape into prepared pan. 

Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out with only a few crumbs attached. Cool for about five minutes, then run a knife along edge to loosen and overturn onto a platter or plate. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and enjoy at room temperature.

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