Here’s a wonderfully delicious treat that looks a lot more difficult to make than it actually is. Ascolane Olives are olives stuffed, breaded and deep-fried. The ‘Ascolane’ refers to the region in which they were invented, and in which these types of olives are grown. Ascoli Piceno is in Le Marche, but these olive trees and this stuffed olive snack and appetizer are also found throughout Abruzzi, too. Ascolane olives are green, large and softer than other types of olives. I’m not sure of the process of preparing these olives for eating, but I’m almost positive they’re not brined. If they were, that vinegar taste would come through. Instead the combined flavours of the breading, olive and stuffing are what shine through. The stuffing can be made from meat, seafood or just vegetables, depending entirely on the cook’s preference.
I had a craving for these little bites recently and decided to try to re-create them. The first obstacle I ran into was finding the olives, themselves. I can’t say that Ascolane olives aren’t to be found anywhere in Canada, but I certainly couldn’t find any in my general area. I tried using brined, pitted green olives for my first batch. Unfortunately, the brininess came through loud and clear, obliterating any other flavours. So, for my second attempt, I bought canned pitted olives that were sealed in water. The second obstacle I ran into was that the grocery store I went to was completely out of green olives. No problem. Even though traditionally, green olives are always used, I decided to try using the black ones. Given that these were packed in water, I didn’t have to worry about a strong taste overwhelming any of the other ingredients.
I trolled the Italian recipe websites to get some inkling into what might go into the filling. I discovered that there are as many variations to the filling as there are recipes. So, although I’ve given you a recipe below (tweaked to my own tastes), feel free to make it your own.
In the end, the ones I made weren’t quite like those I had in Italy. But, they were very tasty nonetheless. Winners, I’d say. I will definitely make these again anytime I have company or when I happen to need some great travelling food. The only change I’d make next time is to try using green olives.
One tip: The Ascolane olives you find in Italy, whether at a restaurant, food truck or in someone’s home, have been pitted in a very particular way. Cook’s across the pond prefer to pare away the olive from the pit. By doing it that way, the olives end up in a spiral shape, making stuffing them considerably easier. I chose to use pitted olives. Then I slit each one down the side, opened the olives carefully and stuffed them. I found that it was actually a very quick production.