Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Nonna's recipe for Extra Virgin Olive Oil Soap

With Signora Anna's grandmother's recipe for making soap in hand, we begin. Stories always accompany any good recipe and Anna explains when times were tough and they could not buy soap, her nonna (grandma) and her mamma just had to make it for themselves with whatever vegetable oil or animal fat was available. 

Luckily, we are in Sabina, just north of Rome and in the heart of olive oil country, so Anna has an abundant supply of the local Sabina extra virgin olive oil on hand. Anna mixes 1 litre of extra virgin olive oil, with 127 grams of caustic soda (always wear gloves and do not touch the caustic soda, even when cutting the soap) and 2 litres of water together and places them all in a large pot, over an outside burner (like a large camp stove).
Once the mixture is in the pot, get a large long wooden spoon and stir. You need to keep stirring this mixture as it comes to the heat. Do not let it boil over. If is looks like it is going to boil over just add some small amount of cold water to stop this happening. As it is boiling, Signora Anna (pictured below, giving her workshop) talked about the natural ingredients you could add for colour and/or scent: Carrot juice, for orange colouring, or spirulina for green. If you wish to add a scent, Anna suggested orange and cinnamon, or eucalyptus or lavender oils, or rosemary. The range of scents i only limited by the seasons and your imagination.
You need to stir this mixture for about 3 to 4 hours until a film "a nastra' arrives on the top of the liquid and it starts to solidify.  Pour into smaller containers (plastic is easiest  or silcon forms are great, as you need to get them out of these containers once the soap has solidified). Leave in containers for a least one week.
Once it has solidified, take out (do not handle this soap at all, always use gloves) and then cut into smaller blocks so that it will dry completely.
Leave in blocks for about 4 weeks and do not touch with your bare hands during this time. You must wait at least 4 weeks to be able to use this soap.
Time, love and a lot of patience are essential ingredients in this recipe for extra virgin olive oil soap. With Anna's grandmother living to 87 years old and not a day of sickness....maybe the 'secret' to her long healthy life can be found in her homemade soap!

Olive Oil Soap workshops with Signora Anna can be arrange for groups of 8 or more participants. All inquiries welcome. Contact Sally on

Information on our Half Day Rome Olive Oil Tour  , can be found on

For Italian Cooking Classes and Cooking Holidays visit:

For Rome Wine Tours please visit

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