Popular Types of Italian Olives

September/October 2014
For a taste of Italy, go for the black, green or red! Indulge in these delicious types of cured and brined olives from Sicily.
Watch: How to Marinate Olives
For a taste of authentic Italy, nothing quite smacks of Sicily like the salty and sweet flavors of cured or marinated olives. Here's how you can tell the types of olives apart.

Curing vs. Marinating: Brine-cured olives have smooth, plump skin while salt-cured olives (sometimes called oil-cured) are lightly coated in oil and have wrinkled skin.


Baresane: These brine-cured olives from Puglia range in color from yellow to green to light purple. Delicate, fresh flavor.


Bella di Cerignola: Also known as Cerignola olives, this brine-cured Puglian variety can be green, red or black. Large, mild and buttery.
Castelvetrano: A vibrant green Sicilian olive also called Nocellara del Belice. Instead of brining or salt-curing, these are treated with lye before rinsing and storing. The result: very mild olives with a salty-sweet flavor and buttery texture.
Gaeta: These popular black or dark purple table olives from the Lazio region are typically brined before storing in oil. Tart, citrusy flavor.
Saracena: An ancient olive cultivar from Sicily, also called Minuta. These small black olives are brined or salt cured.
Taggiasca: Grown on the rocky slopes along the sea in Liguria, these small, deep reddish-black olives have a sweet, fruity flavor.

Look for these olive varieties at gourmet shops or online at olioandolive.com or pastacheese.com.

3 Ways to Pit Olives

The pinch method: For soft or wrinkled olives (which are usually black), pinch one end between your thumb and forefinger and the pit will slip out.
The pressure method: Place olives (a couple at a time) under the wide part of a chef’s knife and quickly apply pressure. The force will loosen the pit. This method works for most types of olives.
The paring-knife method: For olives with pits that just don’t want to budge (often large, green olives), hold upright and use a paring knife to cut the flesh away from the pit in slivers.
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