This article originally appeared in the June/July 2019 issue of Dream of Italy.
Olive all’ascolana (Ascoli style stuffed olives) are the specialty of Ascoli Piceno and the Southern Marche region, they are always present on the table during Holidays and special occasions, as a second dish or as an appetizer. They can be served by themselves or with other fried vegetables and meat, creating the fritto misto all’ascolana. Usually, included in the fritto misto are cremini– fried balls of custard cream, fried artichokes and/or zucchini, depending on the season, and for the most decadent mixes- even fried lamb chops. But the king of the fried platter is and always will be the fried olives. The green olives of Ascoli which are kept in a salt water brine are called “le olive ascolane in salamoia” and are a recognized DOP product in Italy today, and have been produced and shipped outside of Le Marche since as early as 1875!
I remember my grandmother getting up early to prepare them for the special events in my family, like Christmas, Easter or someone’s birthday. The best part was when she would start to fry them, the smell would invade the house and the children would gather around her begging for a little sample. She knew she had to prepare more than needed for the meal because 20 or 30 olives would not make it to the table.
The most difficult part of this recipe is removing the pit by cutting into the olive in a spiral so as to not make the olive fall apart completely. It takes some practice and much patience, but it is not impossible to learn. Nonnas make the best olive ascolane because they have had the most time to perfect the process of taking the pit out of the olive, I am sure of this!
My mom, Norma, continues to make this recipe with my two boys today and I hope to do the same with my grandchildren. The olives are a staple of our city, famous all over the country for being delicious golden treats. The olives are one of the most famous street foods in all of Italy and I see them on food trucks and at street food festivals all the time.
Recipe: Stuffed Olives
½ lb of veal
½ lb of pork
½ lb of chicken o turkey breast
½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 or 3 eggs (depending on size)
A pinch of salt
A pinch of ground Nutmeg
2 Tbsps of EVOO
½ a glass of white wine
2- 2 ¼ lbs of green olives
1 cup of flour
1 cup of bread crumbs
Q.B. sunflower oil for frying
1. Place the green olive in a bowl filled with cold water while you prepare the stuffing.
2. Heat the EVOO in a pan, add all three types of meat and brown them, add the wine and cook the meat for about 20 minutes.
3. Let the meat cool and then mince it in a food processor, transfer the meat in a bowl, season it with the Parmesan, salt, nutmeg, add the eggs and mix everything until you have a smooth texture.
4. Let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
5. Drain the olives and remove the meat of the olive from the pit in a spiral form.
6. Refill the olives with some of the meat mixture recreating the shape of the olive, then bread them one by one using flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs.
7. Heat the sun flower oil in a deep frying pan, add 10-15 olives and fry them until golden, place them on a dish with paper towel, transfer then on a serving dish and Enjoy!