In my last post, I wrote a little bit about my family’s history, specifically about my great-grandmother Amabile who hailed from the region of Marche in Italy. In honor of her, I made olive all’ascolana which is a stuffed, fried olive dish from the town of Ascoli-Pisceno in southern Marche. I wanted so much for these olives to be a triumph, and though they were tasty, they required more effort than I’m willing to spend on an appetizer. However, I think they could work well if a group of people prepared them together, which would reduce the work and make it much more fun.
The most difficult aspect of this recipe was the olives themselves. I wasn’t prepared for how frustrating it would be to remove the olive meat from the pit – something that was glossed over in all of the stuffed olive recipes I read. The suggested method for removal was to cut a spiral in the olive meat and pull it away from the pit much like a spiral of orange peel can be removed in one piece from an orange. However, with olives being much smaller and requiring a paring knife, this was easier said than done. I ended up cutting the olives lengthwise down the middle (the olives I bought were “cracked” and already scored lengthwise) and twisting the halves in opposite directions until one side was released from the pit (like you would a peach or avocado). It was messy and I ended up breaking quite a few of the olive halves this way. Though it’s not traditional, if I make this recipe again I will use pitted olives which should reduce prep time by 30-45 minutes.
To save money, I used pork sausage as the meat filling instead of the mix of chicken, pork, and beef which was called for in most recipes. Though the sausage was a yummy and thrifty option, the fattiness of the meat made it oily and more difficult to work with when stuffing the olives.
Ultimately, olive all’ascolana made for an interesting appetizer and a good learning experience, but considering the time and effort it took to make a small yield, I likely won’t make them again soon. As often as possible, I like to prepare foods that can be made in large quantities and then stored, and these olives definitely do not fit the bill since they do not constitute a full meal and do not reheat well. But, if you’re a patient cook, have a friend or two to help you out, and are looking for an unpredictable appetizer for a holiday or dinner party these may work for you.
1 jar medium or large unpitted green olives (about 25)
3 hot Italian sausages*
1/4 cup butter
2 beaten eggs (1 for the filling and 1 for breading the olives)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Drain olives and soak in warm water while you prepare the filling. Heat the butter in a saucepan and saute the sausage over medium heat until cooked through. Drain fat from the pan, add the cheese and 1 beaten egg, and cook until combined and slightly drier. Take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool. Once cooled, pulse the meat mixture in a food processor until finely ground.
Drain the water from the olives and pat dry. Remove the olive meat from the pit by using either my less-than-perfect lengthwise method described above or the more commonly used spiral coil: starting from the end without the hole, cut the olive away from the pit in a spiral. Place the olive meat on a plate.
Pinch a small bit of the meat mixture between your fingers and roll into a ball. Place it between the two olive halves (if using my method) and lightly press shut, or shape the olive meat coil around the ball of meat until the olive regains its shape. Set aside.
Dredge each olive in flour, followed by beaten egg, and finally breadcrumbs. The olives should be fully covered by the breadcrumbs.
Fry the olives in olive oil until the breading is golden brown then remove with a slotted spoon and let cool slightly on paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve warm.
*I halved the recipe I was working from, which meant I only needed about 1/4 cup sausage meat, but I cooked all three sausages with the egg and cheese and saved the leftovers to serve with pasta.