Fiori di zucca fritti alla romana

There is not a more delicate, succulent, savory summer treat than the blossoms that arrive with young zucchini.

Zucchini blossoms are considered a delicacy in many part of the world.  In Mexico, the flower is featured in sopa de flor de calabaza and quesadillas de flor de calabaza.  The Greeks fill zucchini blossoms with feta, rice or meat and bake them in tomato sauce.  In Italy there are many different dishes that feature zucchini blossoms, but the best known is fiori di zuccca fritti, or batter-fried zucchini blossoms.

Summers in Italy, when the zucchini harvest is at its peak, there are more zucchini blossoms than one knows what to do with.  Mothers and grandmothers gently fry them in their kitchens for their children and grandchildren, pizzerie and trattorie offer them as appetizers on their menus.  The flower’s mild zucchini flavor and creamy texture, offset by the light and crispy batter-fried exterior, is something you must experience to fully understand.

In Rome, fiori di zucca fritti has become one of the city’s signature dishes.  While the blossom is filled with different ingredients in different parts of Italy – ricotta or prosciutto di parma, for example – fiori di zucca fritti alla romana are filled with a single strip of mozzarella, and a thin anchovy.

Here, zucchini blossoms are not always easy to find.  Like so many good foods, they have made their appearance as peoples from different parts of the world have made the Twin Cities their home and brought with them the cultures and cuisines of their homeland.  We owe today’s flowers to two Hmong vendors at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

A few notes:

  • If you haven’t developed a palate for anchovies yet, you can omit them.  Just don’t admit it to a Roman.
  • This is one time when you want your mozzarella to be more solid and less milky.  It’s best to minimize the liquids when you fry the blossoms to prevent the hot oil from splattering.
  • Some claim that using sparkling water renders the batter lighter and crispier.  The fizzy water has the same effect that beer does in a beer batter, without changing the flavor.
  • Like most flowers, there are male and female zucchini flowers.  The males grow off of the stem of the zucchini plant, and have stamen inside their blossom.  The females grow directly off of the end of the zucchini, and have pistils inside their blossom.  (My apologies, reader. That was more information about zucchini blossoms than you cared to know.)  Both male and female blossoms are edible, and in both cases the stamen or the pistils should be removed before cooking.

Ingredients

For the flowers
12 – 16 zucchini blossoms
2 mozzarella ovoline (1 tub)
6-8 anchovies

For the batter
1 C. water
1 egg
2 C. flour
2 pinches of salt
Vegetable oil

Remove the stem of the zucchini flowers.  Carefully separate the petals of the golden blossoms and remove the stamen or pistils, as well.

Wash the flowers carefully under cold water, and pat dry with a cotton cloth or paper towels.

Cut the mozzarella into strips 1/4 inch wide.  Slice the anchovies in half lengthwise.

Carefully insert a strip of mozzarella and a halved anchovy into each flower.

Close the blossoms around the mozzarella and anchovies and twist the ends carefully to keep the filling inside.

Place ample vegetable oil into a deep frying pan and heat the oil over high gas.

Prepare the batter by stirring together the water, egg and salt in shallow bowl, gradually sifting the flour into the water and mixing with a wire whisk.  The batter should be moderately dense.  You may add flour or water as needed until the batter reaches the consistency of your preference.

Dip each flower into the batter, coating it completely, and place it carefully into the hot oil.  Turn it gently until all sides have fried to a golden brown.  Remove from oil and set on a plate covered in paper towels to absorb the extra oil  If desired, sprinkle a dusting of salt over the fried zucchini flowers.

Fiori di zucca are equally delicious hot, or at room temperature.

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24 Responses to Fiori di zucca fritti alla romana

  1. foodjaunts says:

    This is so pretty and light looking. I keep hearing that zucchini flowers are edible (and this post certainly illustrates that) but they’re so hard to find where I’m from. If I ever run across them, your post is the first place I’ll run to.

  2. duespaghetti says:

    Thank you, Food Jaunts. Go in search of zucchini – where there are zucchini, there are sure to be zucchini flowers near! Perhaps you could ask a farmers market vendor to save a few flowers for you. Good luck to you.

  3. Gah- this has me ready to run back to Rome; I miss that glorious city everyday! Anchovies, zucchini blossoms, and a nice glass of Italian red, please.

    • duespaghetti says:

      Sorry about the delay in getting your comment up, Baker by Nature – somehow it got routed into the spam folder and I just found it today. We’d run back to Rome at the drop of a dime, too. Thanks for visiting Due Spaghetti. We perused your blog too, and found it delightful. It will be fun to keep abreast of your kitchen adventures.

    • nicola says:

      having lived in rome myself for 3 years, i know where you are coming from. we took the food for granted and now miss it all

  4. Simona says:

    Zucchini blossoms is another food item that used to be difficult to find. Now, it is common to see zucchini sold with their (female :) blossom still attached and male flowers by the bunch. I am all for this kind of globalization. My mother used to make fiori di zucca fritti like you describe. I think that the anchovy is a must: it’s part of the contrast of flavors.

  5. duespaghetti says:

    I agree, Simona. I was fearful of the anchovy my first few years in Rome, but eventually I came to cherish it!

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  9. ………huummmmmmmmm………deliciosas!!!!!!!

    La primera vez que probé las flores de calabacín no me lo podía creer!!!!!!!!!!! Tenía que ser en Roma…¿dónde, si no?? Fue en Ivo a Trastevere, pero las demás veces las he cocinado yo misma y siempre son una fiesta!!!!

  10. mondomulia says:

    Being a Roman, I love fiori di zucca and miss them here in London! The best way to eat them is on pizza with anchovies! :)

    • duespaghetti says:

      Grazie, and greetings from across the pond. It was such a surprise that Fiori di zucca is our most viewed post. The thought of a pizza con fiori di zucca e alici is simply tantalizing.

  11. Why, I must ask, one must remove the pistils? Aren’t they edible too? I see that all the fiori di zucca recipes ask to remove the pistils but not one says why. Do you know?

    • duespaghetti says:

      Ciao, Ottavio. You know, we were not actually sure ourselves, but we think that it is because they have a bitter taste. Readers, does anyone have a answer?

      • Ottavio Forte says:

        The pistil is the female reproductive organ (ovary?), right under it there is a reservoir with nectar, that is why you may find honeybees and other insects there when you harvest the flower. So on top of the sweet nectar there is a bitter pistil? It’s possible, but I will verify it at the earliest opportunity by tasting a raw fiore di zucca pistil, and being careful not to include the nectar.

      • duespaghetti says:

        Okay, Ottavio. You’ve got us hooked on figuring it out. Various Italian cooking websites and message boards address the topic, but inconclusively. Some say the pistils are bitter, some even say they are poisonous, but there are an equal number of comments from people who say that they don’t remove them, and have eaten hundreds of fiori with the pistils in them. We consulted Filippo Caffari, a Rome native and chef-owner of the Butcher Block Italian restaurant in Minneapolis. Filippo said that the pistils are removed because they are covered in pollen, which is simply not very palatable, and because despite their sugar content, they have a bitter taste. If you do a taste-test, let us know what you discover!

      • It may be so…but the results are IN. This morning I went into the garden and harvested four fresh flowers from the only plant left (I am in Boston). I surgically removed the four pistils, leaving out the sugar, and ate them all at once, to give them volume, they were delicious, no sense of bitterness whatsoever, none. Pollen and bitterness are poor excuses, looking hard for a reason that is not there. The strong taste of anchovies would mask any bitterness, unless it was extreme in which case it could take the place of the anchovies. Also any pollen there would be minute and definitely lost in the bulkiness of the flower. So, in conclusion, I will continue to leave the pistils in the zucchini flowers but will continue to remove the sepals, because that is what my mother did. I am not a culinary expert, but a simple retired aerospace engineer in defense programs.

      • It may be so…but the results are IN. This morning I went into the garden and harvested four fresh flowers from the only plant left (I am in Boston). I surgically removed the four pistils, leaving out the sugar, and ate them all at once, to give them volume, they were delicious, no sense of bitterness whatsoever, none. Pollen and bitterness are poor excuses, looking hard for a reason that is not there. The strong taste of anchovies would mask any bitterness, unless it was extreme in which case it could take the place of the anchovies. Also any pollen there would be minute and definitely lost in the bulkiness of the flower. So, in conclusion, I will continue to leave the pistils in the zucchini flowers but will continue to remove the sepals, because that is what my mother did. I am not a culinary expert, but a simple retired aerospace engineer in defense programs.

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