When our oldest son, Sean, was a baby, we lived in Rome and didn’t think twice about bringing him 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 were Campo de’ Fiori, where we could content him with a piece of pizza rossa from the historic Forno Campo de’ Fiori, the city of Frascati, one of the hill towns in the wine region Castelli Romani just outside of Rome, 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 petite wild strawberries that are bursting with flavor. In summertime, it was a cool reprieve from the heat of Rome. We strolled through Nemi’s narrow streets, stopping for a gelato alla crema with berries on top. Afterwards, we’d stop for a caffè. I always brought a banana and some Biscotti Plasmon, Italy’s quintessential baby biscuits, along and I’d and ask the barman to add milk and blend up a smoothie for Sean.
Closer to home, on Friday evenings we often went out for a Roman-style pizza. 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 classic Roman rice fritter found on the antipasti menu of pizzerie 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.
- 500 grams Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli rice
- 1 large can San Marzano tomatoes (28 oz. of 500 grams)
- Ground beef, approximately 250 grams or 1/2 lb.
- 1/4 of a medium white onion
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh mozarella
- 4 eggs
- Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
- Prepare the sauce by dicing 1/4 of a small-medium onion, and sautéing the onion 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 or blending them until smooth first.
- Add a splash of water or red wine if too thick, and allow it to simmer for 30 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, spread it out and allow it to cool. When 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.
- 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 or Peroni.
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.