Rebuilding the olive

Thanks to the creativity of some chefs in the Marche, the tradition of the famous fried food from Ascoli is renewed

06-09-2014
Stuffed olives all'ascolana in the classic and ort

Stuffed olives all'ascolana in the classic and orthodox version, as prepared by Maria Elena Cicchi, from Ascoli for generations and owner of Agriturismo Villa Cicchi in Rosara. This delicacy, however, is so rooted in the tradition of the Marche and Italy that it can be beautifully re-interpreted, especially by great chefs such as Mauro Uliassi

Strictly fried, from the Marche – from Ascoli, to be precise – filled with meat, breaded and then dipped into boiling oil. This is the identikit of olives all’ascolana, a recipe that has made Ascoli Piceno famous, perhaps more than its Piazza del Popolo or the paintings by Crivelli.

The charm of the liva fritta (the dialectal word used for this recipe) is such that it has attracted the creativity of some great chefs from the Marche; so, from being the unquestionable protagonists of the food in the homes in Ascoli, it has now acquired a very respectful place in the regional fine dining. But before speaking of innovation, it is compulsory to tell the tradition of a recipe which, finely paired with cremini, fried artichokes and lamb chops, creates one of the mixed fried dishes, that all’ascolana, more appreciated in Italian gastronomy.

Fake olive all’ascolana: Mauro Uliassi’s creation

Fake olive all’ascolana: Mauro Uliassi’s creation

Few people know that in order to obtain the authentic flavour of the fried olive, one needs to start from the correct choice of the cultivar to be stuffed: namely the tenera ascolana. «It seems easy, but it’s not. Because the tenera ascolana has many virtues, from the abundant and fragrant pulp, to the sapid and delicately bitter flavour... but one very big defect: you cannot debone it with the help of any machine because the pulp, being too crispy, would break. You need to select the right size of the fruit and the bone needs to be removed manually, with a spiral cut. The spiral cut is essential because only in this way can the meat be distributed equally down the olive and can this have a balanced flavour when tasted. The elliptic shape, the light breading covering the green fruit and the texture of the filling are excellent clues to understand when an olive is truly artisanal» – Maria Elena Cicchi, for generations in Ascoli and owner of Agriturismo Villa Cicchi in Rosara explains. Here you can taste state-of-the-art fried olives all’ascolana.

Can you pound an olive all’ascolana? Try it with its de-structured version, created by Errico Recanati

Can you pound an olive all’ascolana? Try it with its de-structured version, created by Errico Recanati

While tradition requires a stuffing made with mixed meat, minced and seasoned as with a meatball, here starts the creativity of Mauro Uliassi with his fake olive all’ascolana: raw meat wrapped with a fake olive with a bone too (an almond) and breaded with toasted breadcrumbs. As of this year you can find it as an appetizer in his restaurant in Senigallia, we recommend to eat it with your eyes closed, in order to fully enjoy the pleasant sensorial deceit that perfectly reproduces the scents and the flavour of the famous example.

In the age of Ikea, even olives all’ascolana can be broken down and rebuilt, hence the idea of a “gastronomic kit” by Errico Recanati (Ristorante Andreina, Loreto). Three small packs, one with minced Marchigiana meat seasoned with salt and oil, one with the flour from a tenera ascolana, one with some fried bread. The game is simple: you pound the meet in the sack with the fake flour, place everything on the fried bread and taste.

Rosaria Morganti called her take on olives all’ascolana, based on fish, Teneramente azzurra [Tenderly blue]

Rosaria Morganti called her take on olives all’ascolana, based on fish, Teneramente azzurra [Tenderly blue]

From the de-structured version to the variation on the theme, we arrive at the “teneramente azzurra” [tenderly blue] olive by chef Rosaria Morganti of Ristorante i Due Cigni in Montecosaro. An olive stuffed with breaded skipper, fried and paired with a coriander mousse, an ice cream made with tenera ascolana and anchovies stuffed with capers.


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