Fried olives made Ascoli Piceno and its gastronomic excellences known all over the world.
A feature that makes home-made stuffed fried olives stand out from the crowd is the spiral shape of the olive after the pit is removed. It looks like a hair curl, hence the name “ricciolo” (Italian for “curl”). Although it takes much patience and manual skills to cut the olive the right way, this traditional technique is still very much a part of local culinary culture.
A true gastronomic wild card, other than an Ascolan symbol, the filled and fried Ascolan olive can be a priceless street food. Taste it while walking for the streets of the historical centre as appetizer with a glass of wine or as a side dish, it will always be a real signature dish when eating it.
While having a rather rich and elaborate recipe, the tender stuffed and fried Ascolan olive preserves that friendly personality of street food, that many appreciate to consume walking for the streets of the city with a wrap in hand.
Recipe of great sophistication and with presumable rich and bourgeois origin, it looks like a Baroque dish just by looking at its preparation: the spiral pitting, so that the olive can hold the rich filling and keep it, makes us think more to the French school’s cured and decorative culinary inventions than to the spartan and proletarian meatballs. The base of this gastronomic delicacy and its essential ingredient is the olive of the Ascolan tender variety, that has also earned DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin) recognition: tender and crispy at the same time, with its characteristic slightly bitterish aftertaste, it is one of the Italian olives that enjoys great prestige, also excellent in the production of extra virgin olive oils.
The usage of the olive in cooking is very old: in an essay about agriculture of the first century A.D., Lucio Giunio Columella writes: “Olea first omnia east arborum!” (First of all, the olive groves!), and it provides precise information around the commodities distributed to the Roman legionaries. There were then already many arrangements to eliminate the bitter taste but the Ascolan olives were always considered the best for cooking, for their fleshiness and delicate taste. Their pecuilar taste also derives from the procedure used from the preliminary treatments or in the preparation made in brine that makes them more sweet.
Far from negligible, naturally, is the extra virgin olive oil from Ascolan tender, of great personality and recognisability, capable of reaching levels of absolute excellence. This is confirmed by the numerous prizes achieved in national contests and in specialized guides, as well as the appreciation of the consumers.
THE RIGHT PROPORTIONS
According to the recipe included in the official regulations and guidelines for the production of Ascoli’s stuffed fried olives, there are strict rules to respect when it comes to the proportion of ingredients: for example, the quantity of beef can’t exceed 70% of the total amount of meat used for the stuffing, pork cannot exceed 50% and chicken 10%. Moreover, the rule states that the weight of the pitless olive must be at least 40% of the total weight of the final product.