Roman Supplì, like their Sicilian cousins the Arancini, are very much a street food staple, enjoyed by young and old because they taste delicious and are brilliant when it comes to stopping hunger pangs in their tracks. Without ruining the appetite, either.
There was a time when a supplì and a cappuccino, standing up at the bar “Il Delfino” in Rome’s central Largo Argentina, were often what I had for lunch, followed by a cigarette. I may look back in horror at this gastronomic mash up now but neither am I totally surprised: a cappuccino and a supplì furnished just what I needed for a ‘light’ lunch that would keep me going for the rest of the day until supper. Sometimes, if colleagues and I fancied a ‘proper’ meal we’d go to Armando al Pantheon, it was just an ordinary trattoria back in the early 1980s and no one had to book the way you do now. And the “Il Delfino” bar is where my love affair with my husband really took off. So you see, I have an especial fondness for them.
I did write a post about supplì back in 2011, following the classic recipe and its ingredients. See the following link: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/the-surprise-in-suppli/
The recipe I am proposing today is a riff that is inspired by one I read about, done by Roman chef Arcangelo Dandini, who owns the famous L’Argangelo restaurant and who is busy in the hospitality industry and behind many openings in Rome. He is actually from the Castelli Romani, and we are even related – his grandmother and mine were cousins. What a small world. It was he who opened a place called “Supplizio”, a play on the word in Italian, in the centre of Rome, that sells only supplì basically, and very good and posh ones at that. He is famous for his supplì’s crispiness. And won’t reveal the secret, I don’t suppose. What he did reveal is that there is no need to toast the rice in olive oil – one can just toast the rice all on its own! Who knew!
I am thinking that not many of you are going to want to make supplì, and I can’t say that I blame you. It’s a long and laborious business and I end up making them only about once a year. But do trust me when I say that they are definitely worth it. And the good thing is that they can be frozen. So you can make them in advance. The recipe I am giving you yielded around 30-35 supplì; you can make one huge batch and freeze them, and enjoy them a few at a time.
Carnaroli or Arborio rice 500g, 3 Italian sausages, 2 medium-sized onions, 2 carrots, 4 celery stalks total, 500g plum tomatoes, 160g grated parmesan, 100g butter, 2 + 1 egg (3 eggs in total), mozzarella, flour, milk, Italian-style breadcrumbs or panko, and groundnut or olive oil for frying
(1) Ingredients for the vegetable stock: 2 celery stalks and 2 carrots
(2 )Ingredients for the risotto: the rice, 2 onions, 2 celery stalks, the sausages, the plum tomatoes, parmesan and butter, 2 eggs
(3) Ingredients for the exterior of the supplì: 1 egg, flour and milk, breadcrumbs (panko)
Part I – The Vegetable Stock
Make the vegetable stock – just carrots and celery and plenty of water (no salt). It should simmer for at least 20 minutes.
Part II – The Sauce for the Risotto
Chop the onions as finely as you can, and the celery too, and sauté them in some olive oil over a low heat. This can take any time between 10 and 15 minutes. Add some vegetable stock after a while, to soften the texture.
Take the skin off the sausages.
Chop them up as finely as you can.
When the onions and celery are ready and no longer crunchy, add the sausage meat and cook it down.
After a while, add some of the vegetable stock – so that it doesn’t dry out.
Blend the plum tomatoes and add them to the mix. Simmer for about 30 minutes at least, and add salt and maybe even a teaspoon of sugar if the tomatoes are too acid. Stir occasionally.
The ragù can be made in advance. If you liked, you could wait for it to cool down and then put it in the fridge until the next day.
Part III – Cooking the Risotto
Toast the rice in a nice big saucepan. No olive oil! Just the rice. Toast it for just a few minutes or the time it takes for the rice to go pearly white. At this point switch the heat off.
Add a couple or more of the simmering vegetable stock. Watch out for the steam! Use a wooden spoon to make sure the rice absorbs this liquid and does not stick to the saucepan.
Add the tomato sauce, all of it and switch the heat on again. The rice needs to cook for about 20 minutes or however long it takes for it to be ‘done’. Keep adding the vegetable stock by and by, as required, and make sure it is always piping hot. Should you run out of stock, you can always add a little bit of boiling water.
Turn the heat off. Add the grated parmesan. Use the wooden spoon to mix it in well as it melts into the risotto. Remove the pan from the source of heat.
Crack two eggs and beat them well.
Wait for the rice to cool down a little and then add the beaten eggs.
Mix well. Taste. Yum. Job done.
And now the rice has to get really cold, not just cool.
Part IV – Resting the Supplì
I was catering a Christmas party for a friend of mine a few years ago and when I had reached the above stage in the supplì-making it was getting on for 1 a.m. and I was exhausted. So I decided to leave everything to the next morning (well, technically, it already WAS morning but you know what I mean). And so, necessity being the mother of invention, I came up with the following way of ‘dealing’ with the rice, that worked very very well indeed and that I am very happy to share with you.
Get hold of a tray. Measure out the amount of parchment paper that will cover it. Wet the paper and squeeze out the excess water and lay it over the tray.
Actually, you will need two trays for the amount that this recipe yields.
Divide the risotto in half and lay it over the two trays equally.
Spread the risotto flat, as it were. Later, you can take a knife and cut the risotto into squares, one for each supplì you will make.
At this point, add another layer of wetted parchment paper over the rice, and a damp tea towel over that. The rice needs to be kept damp, so that it doesn’t dry out. I left my risotto kitted out like this, on two trays, out on the balcony all night long. It was December and acted like a fridge for me.
Part V – Shaping the Supplì
Okay. This is the bit where it takes a bit of patience – some bolstering and moral and physical support might be required. On the other hand, depending on your temperament, this could be an agreable zen activity for you. Hmm. Me? It depends. It would depend on my mood.
But the job has to be done. We’ve come this far and there’s no turning back. Avail yourself of a bowl of water.
Dip your hands in the bowl of water. That way, the rice won’t stick to them.
Spread some risotto over the palm of one hand.
Add a little chunk of mozzarella in the middle. Make sure you have allowed the mozzarella to dry a little before use. But if you’ve forgotten, it’s not the end of the world. Add it just as it is. Life’s too short.
Close your hand and then use both hands to shape the supplì into an almost oval shape. By the way, these beautiful hands belong to my daughter, and these are photos I have taken from the previous post.
Part VI – Breading the Supplì
In one bowl, the one on the left, I mixed the flour, the 1 egg and some milk together, to form a liquid mixture that will make the breadcrumbs cling to the supplì. Silly me, I can’t remember the quantities. Let’s say: 1 tablespoon of flour, 1 egg, 1 glass of milk. That should work. Alternatively, you could dust the supplì in plain flour first, and then dip it in an egg wash. That’s what I did in the previous post I mentioned.
In the bowl on the right, are a couple of supplì being plunged into the breadcrumbs. The procedure has to be done twice: i.e. first the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, twice.
Laborious? Are you kidding! Phaw. A labour of love.
And here they are, these beauties, waiting to be fried. Deep fried.
As it was, I decided to freeze them.
So when I do get around to frying them, I shall take a photo and add it to this post.
If any of you do decide to be foolhardy enough to want to attempt this recipe, I would love it if you wrote to me afterwards and told me how you got along. Good luck!
P.S. Please note that these supplì in particular are somewhat on the big size. When I have made smaller ones, I ended up making just under 50 supplì.