Recipes from Rome: Savor surprise found in every supplì, make your own
There are many things about Rome that are truly amazing: The fact that it’s been a city for almost 3,000 years, the amount of dogs there are or how sometimes you just stumble into a church and there’s a Michelangelo statue right in front of you.
Another enchanting element of the eternal city is that you can’t take more than a few steps without finding a place that sells supplì — although I can’t guarantee this is a fact. I only have anecdotal evidence.
Supplì are a type of Roman riceball — oval-shaped balls of rice mixed with tomato sauce and stuffed with mozzarella, then deep-fried. They’re sometimes called “supplì al telefono” because of the way the melted cheese looks like a telephone cord going between the supplì and your mouth.
Supplì got their name from the Italian pronunciation of the French word for “surprise,” because supplì are always stuffed with a little surprise. Years ago, the stuffing was usually some type of organ meat like chicken liver, but today the most common supplì stuffing is a cube of mozzarella, and sometimes some meat sauce.
Supplì are one of the few foods that you’ll frequently see people eating in the street in Rome. Wrapped in parchment paper, they make the perfect little lunch or snack. My friends and I love them so much that we decided to make them at home.
In theory, supplì are pretty simple — make a tomato-y risotto, form the supplì and stuff with cheese, dip in eggs, then bread crumbs, then deep fry. However, making them in a narrow-shaped kitchen with four girls really turns it into an adventure. I recommend gathering some friends and frying up a batch of supplì together — for Galentine’s day, perhaps?
1 cup arborio rice (very important, arborio rice has a higher starch content so it will stay together when you make the rice ball)
5 oz. crushed tomato
1 large mozzarella, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup breadcrumbs
1. Put a pot of about 4 cups of water on the stove to boil.
2. Cook the rice and tomato in a large pan together with a big pinch of salt over medium heat.
3. When the water is boiling, add a ladleful to the pan with the rice. Stir until the water is absorbed. Repeat this process, adding a ladle of water and stirring, until the rice is cooked, about 15-20 minutes. You won’t need all of the water.
4. Put the rice on a plate and let it rest until it is cool enough to handle.
5. In the meantime, set up your frying station. Near the stove, set out a bowl with 2 beaten eggs, 1 cup of breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and a bowl of water for your hands. Put a medium sized pot on the stove and fill about 2 inches with canola oil. Set out a baking sheet next to the stove lined with paper towels to absorb grease, and get yourself a tool that you can use to take the supplì out of the oil with — a slotted spoon will work.
6. Begin forming the supplì. Take a small handful of rice in your hand and flatten it until it covers your hand like a thin rice patty. Place one cube of mozzarella in the center and close your hand around it, forming an oval shaped ball. You will probably have to use your other hand as well. Practice makes perfect.
7. Dip the supplì into the eggs, then roll in breadcrumbs. Place on a tray until ready to fry.
8. Heat the oil to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer you can use a cube of bread — if it bubbles immediately and vigorously when dropped in the oil, the oil is hot enough.
9. Fry the supplì in batches, two or three at a time, until they are golden brown. It is important that the oil is not too hot, otherwise, the supplì will burn before the cheese inside melts.
10. Remove supplì to a paper towel-lined tray and sprinkle with salt. Eat immediately.