Here it is, the first recipe from Tasting Rome and one of my favorite recipes from the book. The classic supplì, or rice croquette, is essentially a ball of risotto that is battered and fried. At its core is a piece of melted mozzarella which, to me, is the best part. I do not like my supplì so dry that it crumbles when you eat it. At the same time, it should not be so saucy that it becomes unwieldy when you try to eat it. I developed this recipe after my personal ideal supplì. Let me know if you like it! If you’re interested in learning more Rome’s evolving cuisine, my co-author and I will be participating in a Q&A at the 92nd Street YMCA in New York on March 30 at 7 pm. Come see us! —Kristina
Why I love this recipe: When I first discovered the supplì, I went around Rome sampling them from various places. I found that the cheese was always in one end of the supplì and sometimes wasn’t even melted. One single bite could make or break your experience — you either got all of the mozzarella at the beginning or at the end, and if it wasn’t fully melted, you just got a piece of not-so-soft cheese to boot! Therefore, my trick in making supplì is to use a long, rectangular piece of mozzarella that almost runs the length of the supplì, and once fried, I let them rest for five minutes to ensure that the heat from the supplì really melts the mozzarella. That way, you get a bit of cheese in every bite, and it is always wonderfully gooey.
Risotto and other rice dishes are common in many parts of Italy, but rice doesn’t play a huge role in Roman cuisine. This fact helps make a case for supplì, rice croquettes, as an import. Some say their name comes from the French word surprise and credits Napoleon’s troops for bringing them over in the early nineteenth century. Whatever their origin, supplì are served at Rome’s pizzerias and pizza by the slice shops, though most are mass-produced frozen versions with a scary fluorescent orange crust and a filling of meat sauce and mozzarella. The old-school homemade variety used chicken innards instead of beef, and often bits of sausage as well. This classic version reaches its apex at Supplizio and L’Arcangelo, two venues owned by chef Arcangelo Dandini, Rome’s undisputed supplì (and gnocchi!) master. A crispy exterior gives way to a rich mixture of rice, chicken livers, and pork sausage in a tomato-based sauce. The “surprise” is a bit of melted mozzarella in the center. Our recipe and Arcangelo’s are based on Ada Boni’s version, from her iconic cookbook The Talisman Italian Cookbook.
Makes 10 supplì
– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 3 ounces pork sausage, casings removed
– 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
– 3 ounces chicken livers, finely chopped
– 1 cup (7 ounces) Arborio rice
– 1/2 cup white wine
– 2 cups beef broth, warmed
– 1 cup (8 ounces) tomato sauce, warmed
– 3 to 4 fresh basil leaves (optional)
– 2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
– 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
– Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 2 large eggs
– 1 cup bread crumbs
– 3 ounces mozzarella, cut into 10 equal pieces
– Neutral oil for frying
Note: Keep the beef broth simmering on the stove so that when you add it to the rice, it doesn’t stop the cooking. For the same reason, use tomato sauce that is warmed on the stove.
1. Line a large platter or baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the sausage in small pieces and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon as it cooks, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken livers and stir, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, until cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Continue stirring until the rice is lightly toasted and becomes translucent, about 2 minutes, then add the wine. Stir until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about 1 minute, then add 1 cup of the broth. Cook, stirring continuously to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan, until the broth has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cook, stirring continuously, until it has been absorbed, 5 minutes more. Add another 1/2 cup broth, stirring continuously, until it has been absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. If, once the rice has absorbed the broth, more liquid is needed, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth. The rice is done when it is al dente.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil (if using), Pecorino Romano, and butter. Season to taste. Spread the rice over the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.
4. Meanwhile, set up your breading station: Place the flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Place the bread crumbs on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Season the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs with salt.
5. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and form the rice into 10 equal-size, egg-shaped balls. Working with one at a time, hold the ball in your palm and make a depression in the center. Place a piece of mozzarella in the depression and re-form the rice around the mozzarella. If the balls aren’t holding together, return them to the refrigerator for 30 minutes more after shaping.
6. Dredge each supplì first in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off, and finally coat in bread crumbs. Repeat for a thicker crust, if desired. Set aside.
7. In a medium frying pan or cast-iron skillet, heat 2 inches of neutral oil to 350F. Fry the supplì in batches, until deep golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, turning once to ensure even browning.
8. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot.
Reprinted from Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City. Copyright © 2016 by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Kristina Gill. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
About Kristina: Kristina Gill is an Italy-based food and travel photographer and the Food and Drinks Editor at Design*Sponge. In addition to her online column, she has produced images for National Geographic Traveler, Need Supply’s Human Being Journal, VSCO, Atlas Quarterly, Australia Gourmet Traveller, Bon Appetit, kinfolk, Airbnb, Lomography, and belle Australia. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Kristina lives in Rome, with her husband. Tasting Rome, co-authored with Katie Parla, is the first time Kristina has combined her cooking skills with her food and location photography in print to provide readers a 360-degree experience of what it is like to eat like a Roman in Italy’s capital.