My time in Rome from 2002 to 2006 was the absolute height of my culinary expansion from what I knew as Italian food to authentic Italian cuisine. I have enjoyed some of the best meals of my life thus far there and not just in sit-down restaurants. It is quite possible that over the years I was able to taste pizza from a majority of the pizza shops in Rome yet something that most every one of them sell, suppli, was something that I was always too distracted by the amazing assortment of fresh wood burning oven pizza to try too often. Recently some friends from Rome came to a dinner at my apartment in New York and I wanted to make something different that the normal Italian favorites we make when we are together so I decided to make suppli for one of our appetizers.
Suppli are small egg shaped rice balls stuffed with cheese and/or meat, fried and served with a marinara dipping sauce. Doesn't sound too complicated or involved, right? Well several days before the dinner I played with several different recipes and variations and came up with what I believe are the next best thing to suppli at the best spot in Rome. I stuck to a very traditional method, and went with just a cheese filling rather than meat and cheese. Here's the recipe:
yields about 12
super fino arborio rice - 2 cups
2 cups of crushed tomatoes, canned or fresh, no skins
1/2 stick of salted butter
1/2 lb of fresh mozzarella, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups plain bread crumbs
2 cups flour
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
canola oil - enough to fill a large deep frying pan with about 2 inches
add 1 tablespoon of butter to a large frying pan on medium heat
add all of the rice and mix well
saute the rice for about 3 or 4 minutes or just until you see a translucence in the rice
add two cups of water, stir well
add the crushed tomatoes, stir well
add the rest of the butter in small chunks, stir well
turn down the heat to medium low and let the rice simmer for five minutes. stir the rice well and add 1 cup of water. let cook for another several minutes. taste a piece of the rice to make sure it is semi soft. If it is not soft, add 1/2 cup of water and stir and heat for several more minutes. All in all it should take about 20 minutes or so to cook thoroughly.
Once the rice is cooked take off heat and add the parmesan and eggs and stir well.
Take the mixture out of the pan and onto a sheet pan to let cool. Then place in a container and refrigerate for several hours or until the whole mixture has cooled.
heat the canola oil in the deep frying pan to a temperature of over 250 degrees.
Take out the mixture and fill the palm of your hand with about 1/2 cup. Place a mozzarella cube into the middle and begin to ball the rice around the cheese until it is totally covered, you may need to add a bit more rice to the top to cover. make sure that you gently pack the rice around the cheese so that it is a firm ball. Place the ball onto a cool baking tray. repeat this until your mixture is gone.
Now set up three bowls, one with the bread crumbs, one with the other two eggs, beaten, and one with the flour. dip the ball into the flour and cover, then the egg, then the bread crumbs so it is completely covered and set back on baking tray. Once you have completed this breading process with all of the balls the oil should be to temperature and ready to fry.
Gently place the balls into the oil. make sure not to overcrowd the pan. You will notice a dark browning on the bottom within 2 minutes, turn each ball over and let fry for up to another two minutes but continuously check to make sure that are not becoming too cooked. See the picture here of finished suppli to gauge doneness
Once the whole ball is cooked evenly take out of the oil and place on a large paper towel on a large platter.
Normally I serve these with a home made basil marinara sauce but you can serve them with any kind of sauce that you like. I will post my recipe for basil marinara here shortly.