If you had to pick one snack item that Romans love, it would have to be supplì. And God help anyone who refers to them as an arancino: arancini are Sicilian fried rice balls, and supplì are Roman. Their name comes from the French word for ‘surprise’, as they are filled with a gooey mozzarella centre. Roman kids might eat one as an after-school snack, and they are commonly seen on pizzeria menus as the customary fritto (fried starter) before pizza is served. My favourite supplì is from I Supplì in Trastevere; they gave me their longtime recipe for what is known as one of the best in Rome. –Maria Pasquale
Supplì (Roman Rice Balls)
- 2 eggs
- 7 oz (200 g) fine dry breadcrumbs
- extra virgin olive oil for deep-frying
- 9 oz (250 g) tomatoes
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ onion finely diced
- ½ celery stalk finely diced
- 1¾ oz (50 g) chicken livers finely chopped
- 2¾ oz (80 g) ground beef
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 9 oz (250 g) Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 2 cups stock
- 1 egg beaten
- 1¾ oz (50 g) fresh mozzarella
- Start by preparing the rice filling. Peel the tomatoes by scoring a cross on the bottom of each one; put them in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds, then move them to a bowl of cold water and remove the skins by peeling away from the cross. Cut the tomatoes in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and lightly sauté the onion and celery over medium heat until soft. Add the chicken livers and the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, or until browned all over. Stir in the wine and chopped tomatoes and season with salt and a good grind of black pepper.
- Cover and leave to cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the rice and stock, stir well, and leave to cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is al dente. If necessary, add a little more stock or water. The mixture should be thick and compact, similar to a risotto. Turn off the heat, stir in the beaten egg, then pour the mixture onto a large tray and leave to cool so the rice absorbs all of the sauce.
- Meanwhile, dice the mozzarella into 1 cm (1⁄2 in) cubes and place in a colander to drain away any excess liquid.
- When the rice reaches room temperature, take a handful of the mixture, insert a cube of mozzarella and close the rice into an egg shape, being careful to ensure the cheese stays within the rice. Using your hands, press into an oval shape. Try to make all the other supplì a similar size and shape. Once formed, place on a tray covered with baking paper, ready for coating.
- To coat the supplì, beat the eggs in a bowl and pour the breadcrumbs onto a large plate. Immerse each ball into the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs, using your hands to compact the coating evenly. Once coated, put the supplì back onto the lined tray.
- When all the supplì are prepared, fill a large saucepan with plenty of olive oil and heat until about 340°F (170°C) on a cooking thermometer.
- Add the supplì to the oil one at a time, to avoid the temperature of the oil dropping, and fry in batches of two or three until golden, about 7 to 8 minutes, turning them regularly to ensure an even colour.
- Drain on paper towel and serve hot, while the mozzarella centre is gooey and the coating is crispy.