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Traditions to Inspire Creativity

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

Dear Friends,

Felice Anno Nuovo 2019, a good time to get inspired! Sharing delicious traditional Italian food is a great reason to feel inspired and to get creative in the kitchen.The first time I visited Ascoli Piceno, Italy, I was inspired to learn to make the special stuffed olives, olive all’ascolana, served to me by all my wonderful cousins who make their home in that beautiful medieval city.The popularity of these olives in the city of Ascoli Piceno is comparable to the popularity of Philly Cheese Steaks in Philadelphia!

Preparing those delicious olives is a tradition my Nonna Giulia carried to America nearly 100 years ago. Although I loved EATING her olives, I had never learned to prepare them. We always counted on Nonna Giulia to make them every year for Christmas, and she made enough to share with the entire family.

My Mom Elena never learned to make this detailed recipe, but recalled watching her Dad as he carefully carved the olives in spirals at their kitchen table. While he worked on the olives, Nonna Giulia would prepare the meat filling by memory, the same way she had learned in Italy as a young girl. As Nonna Giulia grew older, my cousin Rosalind took the time to spend with our nonna, learning to prepare and fry the delicious olives. Fortunately for us, Rosalind took notes and wrote down the techniques and exact measurements.

About 10 years ago, I finally learned to make them! It wasn’t enough to have the recipe…I needed a demo! Luckily, I was invited to cousin Rosalind’s kitchen for a lesson, and since then I continue the olive tradition every December with my Mom Elena. I believe it is never too late to learn old traditions or to begin a new one!

Here is the recipe from Giulia Fabiani with special thanks to my cousin Rosalind.Tante grazie cugina Rosalinda!

Olive all’ascolana

©Lorraine Haddock

Recipe of Giulia Fabiani for the traditional stuffed olives

           she learned to make in her hometown of Ascoli Piceno, Italy.

Day one:  Cook 1 pound each of veal, chicken and pork.

Remove bones and trim fat from meat. I buy boneless chicken breast and a thick boneless pork chop.  Ask the butcher to cut a 1 pound piece of veal.

Brown the meat in olive oil and butter

Add:   salt


          1 small onion

          1 medium stalk celery

          1 clove garlic

          fresh parsley

          fresh basil

-After meat is nicely browned, pour in 1 quart plain tomato sauce.

(Or use 1 small can tomato paste, 2 Tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon sugar.)

-Saute low 1 ½ hours.  Lift out meat, cool, and refrigerate overnight. Reserve sauce.    


-Day two: Prepare olives.

Soak olives in cool water for 1 hour and drain in colander. Enlist the help of a family member to begin carving the olives into spirals. My Mom is really good at this!

(You will notice a bottle of Anisette and two small glasses…a traditional drink we enjoy while preparing the olives!) This special Italian liqueur is imported from

Silvio Meletti in Ascoli Piceno

Use CENTO brand Spanish Queen Olives in the 10 oz. jar.  (Each jar has about 33 olives, so I purchase 4 or 5 jars for this recipe.)

If you purchase the olives with pits, carve the spirals and discard the pits. When using the olives stuffed with red pimento, pull out the pimentos before soaking the olives in cool water. After draining, carve the olive into a spiral.

-Prepare meat filling:

Cut cold meat into small pieces.

     Grind meat in food processor or use a kitchen meat grinder.

-Add these ingredients to the ground meat and mix well by hand:

   ½ teaspoon finely grated nutmeg

    grated zest from half a lemon

-Then add:

    ¾ Cup grated Romano cheese

    5/8 Cup sifted seasoned breadcrumbs

    4 large eggs (beat eggs before adding to meat)

-Add about 5 Tablespoons tomato paste or tomato sauce for color. Add a little at a time or the mixture may get too dark. Mix well by hand. Form this meat by rolling into 1-inch balls.If it feels too wet, add some plain breadcrumbs. Wrap the olive around the ball of meat. Roll in the palm of your hand until smooth, then roll in flour, beaten eggs, and plain breadcrumbs.

-Deep fry in hot olive oil in a large frying pan, turning until evenly browned.

-Drain on paper towels and serve hot as an appetizer.

It is a good idea to make these ahead of time and store them in layers of waxed paper in the freezer.  I thaw them one hour before frying.

My mom, Elena Fabiani

Buon appetito!


Italian Vocabulary

Italian vocabulary:

Felice Anno Nuovo                        - Happy New Year

Olive all’ascolana                           - Stuffed olives from Ascoli Piceno

Tante grazie cugina Rosalinda     - Many thanks cousin Rosalind

Buon appetito!                                - Enjoy your meal

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