In my almost four years living in Italy, I have traveled the country quite a bit – Florence, Verona, Milan, Torino, Venice, Matera, Lake Como, Sardinia, Calabria, Pisa, Rieti, Tivoli, Urbino, Siena, Gaeta, and Orvieto are just a few of the cities I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Besides confirming my belief that Italy really is the most beautiful country in the world, my travels have also taught me a good deal about Italian cuisine.
While I already knew that Italian food is across the board superb, I also realized that it is very regional — the dishes you find in the place you are eating in vary greatly depending on the climate, ingredients available, and even history of the individual city. I have enjoyed fantastic risotto alla Milanese in Milan, delectable gnocchetti sardi in Sardegna, delicious orecchiette con cime di rapa in Matera, and superb piadina romagnola in the Emilia Romagna region. However, I know for a fact that I will not find any of these dishes on the menu of any classic Roman restaurant – they are staples of the cuisine of the city and region they belong to, and do not stray far from home.
As a result, I had to wait until I moved to Rome to try a true supplì — a classic Roman street food that is hands down one of the best things you will ever eat. It is traditionally a deep fried croquette of risotto with tomato sauce and mozzarella on the inside, served piping hot so the cheese is nice and melt-y and the exterior crisp. They are most commonly served in Roman pizzerias as an antipasto before your pizza (a supplì followed by a pizza happens to be one of my favorite meals in the world – I’m getting hungry as I type this!) Supplì are just an example of the many fritti (fried foods) that play such an important part in Roman cuisine – other examples include carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes), olive ascolane (fried stuffed olives), and fiori di zucca (fried zucchini flowers).
Besides the traditional tomato and mozzarella combination, you can also find more creative versions of supplì. Some of the best supplì I’ve had come from the tiny pizzeria by the slice Pizzarium (conveniently located two minutes from my apartment) which fries up different supplì daily, offering delicious creations such as supplì with pumpkin and parmesan cheese, supplì with figs, and supplì with braised beef. Worth mentioning here also are arancine, the cousin of the supplì, or rather fried rice croquettes that have a more conical shape and are traditionally filled with ragù and peas. Though they are traditionally Sicilian, arancine are pretty easy to find in Rome and also delicious.
In addition to being a great precursor to a pizza, supplì are also awesome at your next cocktail party or for a light lunch served with a salad – you won’t see them served this way in Italy, but in my opinion supplì are always great no matter how you eat them. The recipe may seem a little labor intensive, but the risotto portion can be made the night before, and the assembling and frying of the supplì only takes a few minutes. Buon appetito everyone!
- 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
- 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
- 3 ounces buffalo mozzarella, drained and patted dry, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Extra virgin olive oil
In a small saucepan, combine the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and keep warm over very low heat.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, and let it cook until it is soft and translucent. Next, add the rice to the pan. Stir it well to coat it with the onion, about 1-2 minutes. Then add the wine and cook, stirring until it is well absorbed, about 3 minutes.
Add 1 cup of the hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25-35 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).
Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in ½ cup of the parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Let cool to room temperature and then put in fridge until cold.
Stir the eggs, remaining parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs in to the risotto (you can do this in a large bowl if the one you have refrigerated the risotto in isn’t big enough). Place the remaining breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Form the risotto mixture into an oval croquette shape (see photo above to get an idea of what the shape should look like). Insert 1 cube of mozzarella into the center of each oval. Roll the supplì in the bread crumbs to coat. Continue until you have used all of your risotto mixture.
Pour enough oil in a heavy large saucepan to reach the depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat. The right temperature is about 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but I usually just judge if the oil is ready or not by throwing a few breadcrumbs in. If they begin to sizzle and fry, the oil is hot enough.
Working in batches, add the supplì to the hot oil and cook until brown and heated through, turning them as necessary with a slotted spoon. Transfer the supplì to paper towels to drain. Serve hot. Makes 10-12 supplì.