Olive Ascolante (Ascoli olives)

September 15, 2022

Olive ascolane with their soft and savory meat stuffing surrounded by a crisp, breaded crust—are a speciality in the region of Le Marche, but they have become a staple on the tables of pizzerias in Rome, where I lived for so many years, and elsewhere in Italy.

They are perfect for nibbling on, washed down by the house white wine, while you wait for your pizza to arrive. Olive ascolane are so popular, in fact, that they sold ready-made in specialty shops and even frozen in supermarkets.

Why do people like Olive Ascolante

The exact mixture of meats and their proportions vary a lot from recipe to recipe. Beef and pork are more or less mandatory, but I think the choice here of equal shares of beef, pork and poultry makes for a nicely balanced flavor. A bit of cured pork, pancetta or lardo or perhaps some mild sausage, intensifies the flavor, Veal sometimes makes it into the mix as well.

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Ingredients that go into Olive Ascolane

  • 500g (1 lb) mild green olives, pitted or unpitted (see Notes)

For the stuffing:

  • 150g (5 oz) each of ground beef, pork and turkey (or chicken)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 50g (1-1/2 oz) pancetta, cut into small cubes (optional)
  • White wine
  • 50g (1-1.5 oz) breadcrumbs
  • 75g (2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • A pinch of ground cloves
  • Salt and pepper

For frying:

  • 6-8 eggs, beaten
  • Flour
  • Breadcrumbs

How to cook Olive Ascolane

  1. Step 1: Make the stuffing: In a large skillet, gently sauté the onion, carrot and celery, along with the pancetta if using, in olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Add the ground meats and break them up and mix them with the soffritto. Sauté until the meats have lost their raw color, then add a splash of white wine and simmer gently until the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes or so. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until you have a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and add the grated cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, and spices. Turn everything together with a spatula or wooden spoon until you have a uniform mixture which is soft but compact. If it’s bit too loose or too moist, add more breadcrumbs or grated cheese to the mixture. Place the mixture in the fridge and let it rest there for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Step 2: Stuff the olives: Remove the mixture from the fridge and stuff your olives:
  4. If using pitted olives, split them down the middle vertically, leaving a bit at the bottom connected. Open the olive like a book and insert a small amount of the stuffing mixture, then press the two sides back together to re-form the olive.
  5. If using unpitted olives, you’ll need to pit them. You could use an olive pitter, but the traditional method is to use a small paring knife to cut the flesh away from the pit in a spiral motion. Of course, your olive will not retain its shape. Rather, you’ll wind up with a spiral strip of olive. You then take a small ball of stuffing and wrap the olive strip around it, “reconstructing” the olive, as it were, slightly larger than it was before.
  6. Step 3: Bread the olives: Set up three bowls with the flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Now, as if you were making breaded cutlets, flour each stuffed olive lightly, shaking off the excess, then dip it in the egg and finally roll it in the breadcrumbs. Roll the breaded olive between the palms of your hands to give it a nice round shape. As you go, set the olives out to dry a bit. Although not absolutely necessary, it is a good idea to repeat the process for a uniform and crispy crust; since olives have a rather smooth, round surface, the breading (for me at least) tends to be uneven on the first go.
  7. Step 4: Fry the olives: Once all the olives are breaded, fry them in abundant olive oil until they are golden brown, turning them frequently so they cook evenly. Drain on paper towels or a baking rack.
  8. Olive ascolane can be served warm or room temperature, as you prefer. But unlike most fried foods, I would not eat them straight from the fryer, unless you enjoy a scalded tongue!

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What can Olive Ascolane be served together with

Olive ascolane can be served warm or room temperature, as you prefer. But unlike most fried foods, I would not eat them straight from the fryer, unless you enjoy a scalded tongue!

Other popular Italian food

Besides Olive Ascolane, there are other Italian food dishes that are highly popular in Singapore and around the world. Below is a list of some of the most mentioned ones:

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