All Things Italian
Seggiano, a farm and smallholding based in Southern Tuscany, offers artisanal Italian products straight from local producers that are simply the best Italy has to offer. Organic and handmade extra virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, honeys, pastas, pasta sauces, pestos, biscotti, and roasted vegetables are just some of the many delights Seggiano has to offer. Named after the small hilltop village on Monte Amiata in Southern Tuscany where Peri Eagleton and David Harrison have farmed certified organic Olivastra olives since 1985, their range of foods honors the tiny village where their story started. After selling their extra virgin olive oil in 1994, Peri and David went on to gather producers of the best Italian foods available. Seggiano’s mission is to provide the most delicious, genuine and naturally produced Italian regional specialties, from Piemonte to Sicily. Standing behind their quality and authenticity, everything is truly handmade as many of their artisanal producers prepare fresh, small batches of their best products exclusively for Seggiano. What sets Seggiano apart from other lines is that current harvest and fresh ingredients made without preservatives or processing makes everything taste like it does in Italy.
It all started when Peri and David met at Ciampino airport. David had been living in Southern Tuscany since 1980 and Peri’s family purchased a farm in 1985. It was fortuitous timing when they began trading their extra virgin olive oil in 1994 as the boom and growth in the extra virgin oil market was just taking off. Once they saw how much their olive oil was appreciated, they began looking at other locally produced foods near their farm in Seggiano, Tuscany. Back then, the company was just the two of them and their mission in finding the most genuine and natural Italian specialties without compromising accountability and quality became their mantra. Peri and David were inspired to launch Seggiano because their extra virgin olive oil was exclusively from the Olivastra variety olive, which is unique to the Seggiano area of Tuscany. After some neighbors asked if they could find a market for the oil, Peri and David turned that idea into reality. Peri shares, “The Olivastra trees are venerable beings, some of them are 800 or 900 years old; and when they die, or are too old to be productive, a new tree takes off directly from the ancient root stock. Olivastra olives make a dense, creamy oil with a particular and delicate flavor. This was our inspiration.”
What we love about Seggiano is that their products come from all over Italy, pulling the cream of the crop from each individual region. Geographically speaking, olives from Puglia, Sicilian tomatoes that are sweet and tasty, Pesto Genovese from Liguria and figs from Calabria. “It means that we are working with many artisan producers from all over the Italian peninsular, which makes our business rather complicated, but very interesting. It also means that we now have friends all over Italy; and they love to feed us. Any visit to our producers involves enjoying the best regional home cooking and visits to the finest regional restaurants,” Peri says. Seggiano offers delicious, fresh olives from different regions of Puglia. The Certified Organic Bella di Cerignola Olives are simply amazing and called “Bella” for its gorgeous proportion, distinctive firm texture and flavor. The firm texture is from the meatiness of the olive while its immense flavor is unbeatable. This large jar of prize plump green olives will not last long as you simply cannot have just one. The Certified Organic Rosate di Bitetto Olives are unique for their round, rosy-hued and rich flavor. The delicate, crisp flesh comes easily off the stone and makes for being the ultimate aperitivo olives.
The heart of Seggiano is their olive oil, which is probably the best on the market. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil is their best selling creamy, dense, delicate olive oil from Tuscany with its light and fresh olive fruit aroma and buttery taste. Gourmands will instantly taste its difference when used with cooked fish, meats, or vegetables. Seggiano also produces flavored olive oils from Puglia that are stone ground with lemons, mandarins, or basil which are marketed under the brand Lunaio to avoid confusion. These perfumed elixirs are fabulous with salads, pastas and just about anything. Since olive oil and balsamic vinegar goes hand in hand, Seggiano proudly features their Organic Matured Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Made naturally with organic grapes and without the use of coloring or sulphites, this vinegar is balanced, rich, and delicious. Seggiano only produces items that are in season when the raw ingredients are available and fresh. For example, their artichokes are picked, trimmed, roasted and placed in quality extra virgin olive oil within a week of harvest. If they run out of their Roasted Artichoke Hearts before the next harvest, there is no other choice but to wait. While most are canned in salt water, resulting in pale and soggy pieces, these are preserved in quality Canino extra virgin olive oil. Morelli artichokes are seared in a marinade and roasted over red hot volcanic rock. This traditional country method of preserving artichokes results in divine taste as the oil has low acidity and can be used later for cooking. Adding these artichokes to sandwiches, salads, and pastas are absolutely delicious.
Seggiano is unique and different from other Italian gourmet food lines on the market because their products are entirely governed by quality rather than price or convenience. While they might not be the cheapest, it is obvious to the discerning consumer that they are the best and a great value for the money. Seggiano is also the only brand that offers a complete range of artisan regional Italian foods from specialist producers under one name. Not only do Peri and David themselves make the olive oil, they have never used PR or media as David developed the business entirely through tastings. The product speaks for itself as people often “get it” and convert to Seggiano after tasting the olive oils, balsamic vinegars, pestos and more. Peri doesn’t need a culinary background as living in Italy for over 25 years makes her an expert in the joy of food, its preparation and eating – as that is an essential part of life in Italian culture. In addition to evaluating every product by inspecting ingredients, tasting and smelling, Seggiano will not carry any products that are harmful to humans, animals or the environment in their making. From the start, they even decided to refrain from selling and profiting from animals or fish for personal ethical reasons.
In terms of quality, Seggiano products have to be the best of their kind. For example, it took them years to find the right Seggiano pesto as everything was over salted, lacking in Basil flavor and mediocre. After finding fabulous pesto that is raw and unpasteurized with subtle Basil flavor, their producer has perfected the pesto Genovese. The classic Basil Pesto Genovese is made from the producer’s own fresh organic basil and is a fabulous, raw, unpasteurized pesto packed with fresh, aromatic flavors. Blended with cashew and pine nuts, this pesto does not contain (or need) cheese and is perfect for vegans. A rare but just as delicious pesto from the same family is the Red Pesto Sauce, made with fresh tomatoes, a load of fresh basil, cashew and pine nuts that are ideal for pastas, sandwiches, or seasoning. The creamy, nutty sauce is a classic Ligurian red pesto. Peri says, “Our selection criteria is simple: find the best product, visit the producer to fully understand the production process, package it to provide straightforward information to the consumer and bring it to market. The issues are taste, quality and provenance.”
Every gourmand knows that good quality risotto takes patience and time. Aside from gathering the best ingredients and finding rich stock, the art of stirring the risotto to perfection is a challenge for any home cook. Thankfully, Seggiano cut out the bulk of the work and perfected a ready to make risotto in a jar. Made with carnaroli rice and quality ingredients, we were amazed with the Porcini Ready Risotto and Asparagus Ready Risotto. Better than expected from a jar, the porcini risotto burst with rich, nutty mushroom flavor and generous porcini bits. Simply add white wine or vegetable stock to the ready risotto jar contents and you have an epicurean dinner fit for any foodie. The asparagus risotto was light yet appetizing with its asparagus flavor and hearty blend of onions, carrots and parsley. Unlike Arborio rice, carnaroli is the best risotto rice as the starch absorbs all the flavor juices of the base evenly.
David notes that their most popular items include the Seggiano Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Seggiano Tuscan and Sicilian honeys, Organic Pasta and amazing Pesto Genovese, the Baked Calabrian Fig Balls, Seggiano Roast Artichokes, Puglian Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Biscotti, the two Seggiano Panettones, Rices and Risottos, and the new Puglian Pasta Sauces. As for personal favorites, Peri needs the Acacia and Eucalyptus honeys on hand and has a jar of their Organic Hazelnut and Chocolate Spreads tucked out of sight. David finds the Seggiano Fresh Pecorino Cheese, made down the road from their farm to be just delicious. Other pantry staples include the balsamic vinegar, all the Puglian Organic Aromatic oils, Roasted Artichokes, Seggiano Tomatoes in olive oil, and of course, their famous Bella di Cerignola and the Rosate di Bitetto olives. David’s loyalty lies with their own extra virgin olive oil as he says, “I pick it, take it to the mill, bottle it, sell it, so I’m damned well going to enjoy it too.”
Seggiano has classic pates from Tuscany that are perfect to toss with pasta, use on pizza, bruschetta, or anything so desired. The Raw Artichoke Pate is made with raw morelli artichokes that are centrifuged, shredded and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, chili, and salt and pepper to make a creamy pate. We love tossing this light pate with pasta to add just a glaze of nutty flavor to the dish. The Olive Pate is a delicious and rich combination of four olive varieties and a small amount of olive stones, washed and crushed. The texture is perfect for spreading atop bread or bruschetta while the flavor is complex and rich from the different kinds of olives. If you love red tomatoes, the Sun-Dried Tomato Pate has punchy and concentrated flavor from the sundried tomatoes, onions, capers, garlic, and chili. This rich pate is versatile and easy to please as it goes with so many everyday foods. For honey aficionados, Seggiano has one of the widest selections of unfiltered, unpasteurized fresh honey, straight from master bee keeper, Mauro Pagliaccia. Customers continually rave about the amazing taste and quality of such honey varietals, including Wild Carrot Honey, Wildflower Honey, Wild Thyme Honey, Eucalyptus Honey, and many more. Their most popular flavor is Acacia Honey, as the spring flowering acacia makes a pale gold liquid honey with a delicate, fragrant taste. For sweetness with a lemon undertone, the Sunflower Honey has large crystals of honey which melt in the mouth and leave a pleasant citrus taste. Seggiano has had its brush with fame as David once sold a bottle of Seggiano olive oil to Emma Thompson during an in-store tasting. David adds, “We were told that the late legendary Stanley Kubrick, “needed’ our Roasted Artichokes. We know Brian Adams is a fan and that the blessed Elvis Costello likes our stuff.”
Gourmands who seek pleasure in fiery hot and spicy peppers know that chilli and “spicy” pasta sauces on the market fail to live up to their name. But Seggiano’s classic southern Italian Chilli Arrabbiata Pasta Sauce, is the best and spiciest we have found. Made in Puglia by their friends, the DeCarlo family, with fresh tomatoes and hot chilies, this lush pasta sauce adds delightful fiery heat to any dish. Speaking of which, Seggiano sells their homemade pasta from Tuscany, ready to cook in a matter of minutes. A personal favorite is the Organic Tagliatelle, wide ribbon pasta slow dried for 26 hours at a monitored temperature to preserve its original proteins, flavor and consistency. The tagliatelle has a superior consistency compared to other dry pastas on the market and held the sauce beautifully. Seggiano pasta is made using traditional bronze moulds that give pasta a porous texture, allowing sauces to bond better. The foundation of locally grown organic durum wheat shows no compromise when it comes to quality.
Seggiano has an amazing selection of sweets and treats. Organic Licquorice Spirals, made with Italian liquorice from Calabria, have 6% liquorice extract. These spirals are fun to eat and have the right amount of anise and sweetness. Seggiano offers seasonal specialties like the artisan Easter Colomba cake and a Classic and Chestnut Panettone for Christmas, handmade by a couple in Alto Adige, in the foothills of the Alps. These are hard to come by as they can only produce about 100 cakes a day through traditional baking without using the industrial tricks of added mono-diclycerides of fatty acids or soya lecithin. Coffee lovers will enjoy the Organic Gluten Free Coffee Biscotti as they are the ideal accompaniment to a cup of black coffee or espresso. These bite-size biscotti cookies may look small but actually pack a lot of intense coffee flavor from the superior coffee used. A quality connoisseur blend of high mountain organic Arabica coffee results in one of the best coffee biscuits we have ever tasted. Delicious and gluten-free as they are made just from rice flour, these coffee biscotti cookies are not too sweet and sure to be a favorite.
Currently, Seggiano is sold at Whole Foods in the United States and London. After a Whole Foods team set up Seggiano in their Kensington, London, flagship store (largest store worldwide), they fell in love with Seggiano’s range and wanted it back in the states as well. In the U.K., Seggiano can be found at top independent grocery stores like Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason to small farmshops and small delis. As for the future in the next five years, Peri and David hopes Seggiano finds a place in the hearts and homes of food connoisseurs in the United States as they have been working with an importer and distributor. Seggiano is slowly moving into the best gourmet outlets and into the limelight. James Knight, their newest team member, handles the business and in-store tastings in the states, as well as developing their on-line presence. Seggiano recently collaborated with OpenSky.com and their incredible curators. Peri and David are realistic that the reality comes down to pacing themselves as providing seasonal real food means growth needs to be measured. Expansion and growth comes down to whether it comprises their quality and accountability, which are the cornerstone of the Seggiano brand. For more information and where to find Seggiano products, visit seggiano.co.uk/