We’ve had this recipe and accompanying photos ready for a week now, but the time and more importantly the inspiration to write a post around them have been missing.
It arrived last night in the form of an 11-month-old bundle of smiles, curiosity and drool named Penelope. She was our guest at dinner, along with her parents Veronica and Lauren, and our mutual friends Emily and Ben. It was a brilliant evening to benefit the amazing students and teachers at Cara’s school, with a menu of some of our favorite seafood dishes:
Antipasto misto di pesce (Mixed seafood appetizers)
Pennette al salmone (Pennette in a creamy salmon sauce)
Lageder Pinot Nero
Pesce spada al cartoccio (Baked Swordfish with seafood)
Insalata mista (Baby Salad Greens)
Tiramisù al limoncello (Limoncello Tiramisù)
Caffè e Digestivi (Espresso and Digestif)
But, back to Penelope. She was busy and happy. She explored the living room, engaged playfully with the adults, and snacked on food from her own little portable, spill-proof bowl. Her parents took turns holding her, and before any of us realized it, 5 hours had passed.
It reminded us of when our oldest, Sean, was a baby. We still lived in Rome then, and didn’t think twice about bringing him out with us where ever we went. He was content to observe the world from his stroller or ride along in the baby carrier worn by his mamma or papà.
Some of our favorite spots to take him were Campo de’ Fiori, where we could content him with a piece of pizza rossa, the hill-town of Frascati in the Castelli Romani, or the village of Nemi, perched high above the volcanic lake Lago di Nemi, just south of Rome. Nemi is famous for its berries, frutti di bosco, and especially the miniature wild strawberries that are bursting with flavor. In summertime, it was a cool reprieve from the heat of Rome. We’d take a stroll through Nemi’s narrow streets, stopping for a gelato alla crema with berries on top. We’d bring along a banana and some Biscotti Plasmon, Italy’s quintessential baby biscuits, and ask the barman to add milk and blend up a smoothie for Sean.
Closer to home, Pizzeria Pizza & Fichi, at Via Alenda, 26 in Rome’s Giardinetti neighborhood was a favorite spot for Roman-style pizzas, filetti di baccalà and supplì, made by our friends Fabrizio, Massimo, Carmela and their mom at the family business. We’d choose an outdoor table underneath a broad umbrella, order our pizzas, and feed Sean while we waited for our food. Like clockwork, he would fall asleep by the time our pizza arrived. We’d recline his stroller seat, place him back into it, and enjoy our pizza while he slept.
Supplì al telefono are a rice croquette fritter found on the antipasti menu in pizzerie all across the city. The rice is cooked with a bit of tomato sauce, sometimes with ground beef, and let to cool. Then, it is molded into an egg-like shape, and a piece of mozzarella is pushed into the middle of it before it is breaded and fried. When the supplì is broken open, the melted mozzarella stretches from one piece to another, resembling the cord on an old-fashioned telephone.
for 8 supplì
500 grams Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli rice
1 large can of whole tomatoes (500 grams or 28 0z)
Ground beef, approximately 250 grams or 1/2 lb.
Vegetable, peanut or olive oil for frying
Prepare the sauce by dicing 1/4 of a small-medium onion, and sautéing in olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground beef and brown it slowly, using a spatula to crumble the meat finely. Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill. Add a splash of water or red wine if too thick, and allow it to simmer for at least 45 minutes. Salt to taste.
Cook the rice in abundant boiling water with a handful of salt tossed in, just as you would cook pasta, according to the cooking time on the package. When the rice is done, drain off the water using a strainer. Add the rice to the sauce and stir well until it is evenly coated. Place onto a baking tray or into a large baking dish and spread it out in order to facilitate cooling.
Once the rice is cool, you are ready to assemble and fry the supplì. Add your oil several inches deep into a pan suitable for frying, and place it over medium heat.
Fill a dish with flour, another with breadcrumbs, and a final one with the eggs, which you will beat slightly. Cut 8 small pieces of mozzarella to stuff inside the supplì.
Wet you hands to make it easier to handle the rice. With your hands, scoop enough rice to make an egg-sized supplì. Mold it into an oblong shape, and using your thumb make an indent in the center. Fill the indent with a piece of mozzarella, and then enclose the mozzarella with rice so that it is tucked well inside.
Dust the supplì in flour, dip it into the egg and rotate it so that it is well-coated, and then finally roll it in the breadcrumbs. Some recipes suggest repeating a second coating of egg and breadcrumbs. We tried it both ways and preferred a single layer, but you may wish to experiment and decide which option works best for you.
Gently place each supplì into the hot oil and fry until it takes on a rich brown hue. Remove from the oil and set on absorbent paper towels. Allow to cool slightly, and enjoy with a Birra Moretti.