ULIVI CUNZATE, INSALATA DI OLIVE – Sicilian Green olives/ Olive salad


I do not usually buy dressed olives – some combinations can be very salty, others taste what I refer to as “synthetic” i.e. the quality and taste of the oil could be better, the blend of spices and herbs fresher or the combination of flavours are not to my taste. I would much rather buy some good quality, plain kalamata olives and dress my own, using good quality extra virgin olive oil and spices I like.

My cousin Lidia lives in Augusta (east coast of Sicily) and she makes very good olive salads using black or green olives.I like to use her method of dressing olives using green, Sicilian olives.

What we are calling ‘Sicilan green olives’ in Australia are those very distinctive vivid, bright green coloured olives (almost unnatural in colour – this is due to the pickling process). They have a softer, creamier texture than conventional olives and are milder tasting – no bitterness or saltiness. These olives seem to have become a bit of a fad recently In Melbourne.

In Sicily, these green pickled olives are said to come from Castelvetrano in the province of Trapani.


Lidia adds giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables in vinegar) to the olives. Ratio: 1 part giardiniera to 3 part olives.

Add finely chopped parsley, spring onion, red chilli and garlic to taste.

She also uses the inner heart of the celery – those tender light green stalks and their leaves chopped finely.

Nothing savoury is ever eaten without good quality olive oil. Dress the salad generously.

But, it is the finely cut, fresh mint that is the refreshing addition – add this last of all and present to the table.

When I make the olive salad I present it as an antipasto. It does not keep well – the mint turns dark, the salad component goes soft. (And this is why for the most part the ready bought, dressed olives taste ‘synthetic’ – picked fresh ingredients perish too quickly and are not generally used for the take-away market).

For other recipes on how to pickle and dress olives, see earlier posts labelled ‘Olives’.