This week I am kicking off a series devoted to Italian cuisine. One might think that food would be the only thing I would want to write about, but it has been a minimal subject thus far on my blog. Well, with less than four weeks left in Italy, now is the time for me to share all I have learned about the country cuisine’s, including cooking techniques, preparations, and, of course, how it all tastes. In the coming days, one can expect posts about Italian pasta, including a recipe for fatto a mano (handmade), wine, cheese and various other Italian specialties. This week promises to wet everyone’s appetite and to leave readers with mouths wide open and envious of my culinary adventures.
To begin this series on Italian food, I thought it best to begin with a recipe and a recounting of my second foray into Flavia’s kitchen. After more than two months since our last attempt at cooking, Emily and I were anxious to return to our host mother’s favorite room in the house and learn some of her secrets. Though it took some convincing, she finally agreed to give us a cooking class this past weekend. On the menu: supplì.
When Emily and I visited Rome last month with our program, Flavia advised us to order supplì during our stay. Unfortunately, between the museum and church tours, the two of us never had the opportunity to search out a restaurant with the dish on the menu. In light of this fact, Flavia promised to spend this weekend teaching us how to make the Roman snack. Supplì are a Roman specialty similar to the Sicilian arancini. The basic recipe combines a risotto ragù and raw egg shaped into small logs, stuffed with a piece of mozzarella, dusted in breadcrumbs, and then fried in oil. The primary difference between supplì and its Sicilian cousin is that the island version is always shaped like a ball and often includes peas among the ingredient list. Considering that I have never been a huge fan of peas and the fact that risotto is on my top ten list of favorite foods, I knew supplì was going to make my stomach happy.
The first step is making Flavia’s supplì began with the preparation of a ragù. Here is the ingredient list:
- Combination of ground veal and sausage
- Red wine
- One can of diced tomatoes
Typical of an Italian cook, Flavia could only estimate the amounts for the ingredients. When I asked how much wine, she said un bicchiere, a glass. But how big of a glass? Halfway or full? Just as with my great-grandmother, there is no measuring in Flavia’s kitchen, and thus I could get no precise answer to my questions.
Below I have listed the steps of the ragù, including my estimations from observation for the measurements of ingredients.
- Heat between 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Combine 1 chopped onion, 2 celery stalks, 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, and 1 large carrot in the pot and cook until slightly brown.
- Add in a 1 pound mixture of ground veal [preferably vitellone because of its higher fat content] and ground Italian sausage. Cook until brown, about ten minutes.
- Add about 1 Cup (or glass) of red wine and cook until the meat absorbs the liquid and the brown bits at the bottom of the pan have been lifted.
- Add 1 can of diced tomatoes to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cook for two hours over low flame, always stirring and adding water if mixture becomes too thick.
Once the ragù has cooked for its allotted time, now is the time to prepare the risotto.
- Arborio Rice
- In the same pot as the ragù, add approximately [remember this is all an estimation] 1 Cup of Arborio rice and stir constantly.
- During this time, add water only if the mixture becomes too thick.
- Cook on low flame until rice is al dente, between fifteen to twenty minutes.
- Take off the heat and cool rice completely. This process can be sped up considerably by placing the pot of rice in a water bath. If doing so, wait approximately twenty minutes until rice is cool enough to handle.
Nearly three hours later, it is time to finally prepare what will become the finished product.
- 2 Beaten Eggs
- Bread Crumbs
- Cooled Risotto
- Fresh Mozzarella, Diced
- Peanut Oil
- Add two beaten eggs to the risotto mixture and stir until combined.
- On a clean surface or in a bowl, prepare a breading station with the breadcrumbs.
- Make egg-shaped portions of rice, and make an indentation in the center of each one. Place a piece of diced mozzarella in the center of the rice. Cover the cheese completely, and roll each portion in the breadcrumbs.
- In a large skillet, cover the bottom of the pan with about 1-inch of peanut oil. Heat on medium high temperature and wait until smoking. Add the rice logs to the pan without overcrowding. Fry until golden brown all over. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Once finished, you will have crispy croquettes with a cheesy rice interior. If one did not know there was risotto inside, one might assume they were mozzarella sticks, but they are so much better! Even if they are fried, one could always validate the calories for the snack with the fact that it contains all the necessary food groups: dairy from the cheese, protein from the ragù, grain from the rice and breadcrumbs, and vegetables from the mise en place that began the ragù. While they may not be the easiest or quickest thing to prepare, my experience making supplì with Flavia was a raving success.