Stuffed esacarole and escarole pizza are two very important staples at the Neapolitan Christmas table. My mother-in-law has been here since the beginning of December and we prepared a typical Neapolitan feast for Christmas Eve. An antipasto of smoked fish, anchovies and pickled herring, our first course was spaghetti e vongole and we finished the meal off with roasted octopus and a beautiful orata al cartoccio. Where does the stuffed escarole fit in? I am not 100% sure.
The pizza di scarola is eaten for lunch, keeping it light for the big feast at dinner and I think the scarola imbottita is meant to be served with the antipasti. It is unclear. My mother-in-law bought ten heads of escarole, 5 for the pizza and 5 to stuff. My vegetable vendor was shocked and relieved, he had brought in the specific frizzy escarole specifically for her and she bought almost every one.
I love le scarole imbottite, this entire head of veg stuffed with delicious contrasting flavors. I love that it is an old Neapolitan tradition and was enthusiastic to finally have the opportunity to watch her make it. It doesn’t actually seem as hard as everyone always made it out to be. She still makes them the same way that her nonna made them, and probably many other women in her family before her.
We didn’t actually eat them on Christmas Eve but waited until Christmas day to enjoy them with our bourbon glazed ham, they were the perfect pairing.
- 5 or 6 frizzy escarole, small heads, depending on how many people you are serving
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives
- 1/4 cup salted capers, rinsed
- 1 anchovy fillet per escarole
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- extra virgin olive oil
- butcher’s twine
Clean the escarole in many changes of water, they tend to be pretty dirty. Remove any outside leaves that are browned or shriveled, do not remove the stem of the escarole, holding all of the leaves together. Shake all of the water out of the escarole and place them open on a clean countertop, you will need lots of space, they spread out pretty big, even if they cook down to nothing.
In the center of each escarole, place about a tablespoon of black olives, a teaspoon of capers, a teaspoon of pine nuts and a heaping teaspoon of raisins, with one anchovy fillet on top. Drizzle about a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil on all of the stuffing.
This is the tough part. Gather the ends of the leaves together, closing all of the goodies inside. Wrap the butcher’s twine around the middle of the escarole a few times and tie a knot tightly so that nothing falls out.
Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a wide pot and place the escarole on their sides, they can squeeze in there pretty tight because they will reduce as they are cooking, providing more room for movement. Place the pot over medium heat and let cook for at least an hour.
You can prepare these a day ahead of time, covering them and reheating them before you eat them.
Four Years Ago: Risotto with Pumpkin and Olives