While Olives all'Ascolana -- moreish, deep-fried olives stuffed with a meat filling -- hail from the province of Ascoli Piceno in Italy's central Le Marche region, they're so popular that they have found their way into bars all across Italy. Commonly, they are part of an antipasto course or are one of the hearty nibbles during aperitivo to accompany a negroni or spritz. Either way, they're the sort of thing that would never be missed at a special occasion or a Sunday lunch with the whole family.
3 1/2 ounces
(100 grams) pork, finely diced or minced
3 1/2 ounces
100 grams beef, finely diced or minced
3 1/2 ounces
100 grams chicken, finely diced or minced
(80 ml) dry white wine
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
(50 grams) grated Parmesan cheese
(100 grams) flour
(50 grams) breadcrumbs
Olive oil or vegetable oil, for frying
In This Recipe
First, prepare the olives. Arm yourself with a small knife. (A regular table or butter knife is easiest to work with; you may prefer a sharp knife, but they can cut too easily through the olive, resulting in breakage). Begin trimming around the pit of the olive, much like you would peel the skin off an apple, to create a "spiral" of olive meat and to remove the pit. Discard the pit, and place the olive in a bowl with the water and salt. Continue with the rest of the olives. (You may want helpers.)
For the filling, over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil in a skillet, and saute the carrot, onion, and celery for about 5 minutes. Add all the pork, beef, and chicken, and cook, stirring gently, for about 5 minutes. Then, add the white wine, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and continue cooking, stirring gently, for a further 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduced slightly. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend, until smooth and fine like a paste.
To the meat mixture, add the egg yolk and Parmesan cheese, and blend again. You should have a rather solid, compact filling that you can easily shape into a ball. If it is a bit soft or sticky, place in the refrigerator to chill. This filling can also be made a day or two ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container until needed.
To fill the olives, take a 1/2-teaspoon sized portion of the filling, roll it into an oval shape, and wrap an olive around it (like the filling is taking the place of the pit). Press gently to close the olive perfectly over the filling. Repeat with the rest of the olives. When all the olives are ready, they can be refrigerated at this point and kept until you need to fry them.
In a small bowl, beat the egg with a pinch of salt. Put the flour and the breadcrumbs in 2 other, separate small bowls.
Fill a small saucepan with enough olive oil for the olives will float in. Bring the oil to medium heat.
Double-coat the olives by first dipping them in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then back into the egg and back into the breadcrumbs. Drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for about 1 minute, turning them gently to brown evenly. Fry in small batches (do not overcrowd the pan otherwise the temperature will drop significantly), and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately. Note: If the olives are browning too quickly, it means the oil is too hot and you will end up with a soft filling rather than a fully cooked one (the egg will be uncooked but the meat of course is already cooked). Turn the heat down a notch and try again, cooking them slower.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.