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How to make Olive all’Ascolana

The most famous culinary export from the town of Ascoli Piceno in the region of Le Marche, these stuffed, fried olives are eaten as a snack or appetiser throughout Italy.

The recipe, which sees plump green olives stuffed with a meat-based filling before being coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried, is thought to have been invented in the 18th century by the cooks of the noble Marchigiano families who needed ways to utilise leftover meat.

While making olive ascolane at home is a lengthy procedure and can look a bit intimidating, this recipe is broken down into simple steps, almost all of which can be done in advance.

Although traditionally the olives would be pitted by hand, cutting around the pit in a spiral and then re-forming the shape around the filling, this version uses a simplified method by using ready-pitted olives and sandwiching the filling between two halves.

Even if you prepare and coat the olives in advance, be sure to leave the frying to the last minute; nothing can beat the taste when they are eaten hot, crispy and golden.

Makes 30

30 large pitted green olives
100g flour
1 egg, beaten
100g fine breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying

For the filling:
100g beef rump
100g pork loin
100g chicken breast
½ onion
½ carrot
½ celery stalk
125ml dry white wine
1 egg, beaten
75g grated parmesan
30g breadcrumbs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon

Begin by making the filling. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, finely chop the onion, carrot and celery and add to the pan.

Cook for about 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Chop the beef, pork and chicken into small pieces and add to the pan, cook for 4-5 mins until lightly browned.

Add the white wine, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the alcohol has evaporated and the liquid has reduced. Remove from the heat, leave to cool and then blend in a food processor until you have a paste.

Put the mixture into a bowl along with the beaten egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan, lemon juice and a generous grating of nutmeg. Stir everything together and then put in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Once the mixture is cold you can begin to stuff and coat the olives. Prepare three separate bowls with the flour, beaten egg and fine breadcrumbs, and line a tray with baking paper.

Slice each olive in half lengthways, fill one half with the meat mixture then put the two halves back together. Coat the olive with flour, dip in the beaten egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs until completely covered.Place on the baking paper ready for frying. Continue until all of the olives are filled and crumbed.

At this point you can keep the olives in the fridge until you are ready to fry them. To cook, pour plenty of vegetable oil into a wide saucepan and heat until boiling (test with a wooden toothpick, if the oil bubbles it is hot enough).

Carefully add the olives in batches, cooking each one for about 4-5 minutes, moving them around frequently to ensure an even colour.

Use a slotted spoon to remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt and serve while they are still hot.

Recipe by Kate Zagorski

Kate Zagorski has lived in Italy since 2000. Married to a food-obsessed Roman chef, she leads food tours and also worksa freelance food and travel writer. For more of her recipes see Wanted in Rome recipe page.


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