So far some 270 bloggers have posted their list of five things to eat before they die, myself included, but I as yet have not seen evidence of a huge number of people actually actively eating these things. Perhaps I’ve got a bit of the pessimist in me, but life is short. If you woke up tomorrow at the pearly gates (or wherever it is you will end up …), would you regret not eating that perfect slice of key lime pie, that scrumptious panettone, those Latvian pancakes? Well, I’m not waiting.

Ever since I got supplì (that’s soup-PLEE) on the brain, I knew there would be one of two inevitable outcomes: Fly to Rome or make the damn things ourselves. A trip to Rome would be delightful, but improbably expensive and inconvenient at this time. Besides, we had leftover risotto. What a coincidence!

As I mentioned in the meme posting, supplì are one of the few uniquely Roman things that rise above the fray of the culinary landscape there. The first time we went and stayed with my cousins in the Prati district, north of the Vatican, they brought some of these home from their local deli, knowing it would be a special treat. We were immediately hooked. And no trip to Rome is complete without eating some of these.

During that trip, when the family would whisk us around the city from one impressive sight to another at just under the speed of sound, as our energy flagged, DPaul meant to say, "ho fame" — I’m hungry — but accidentally said, "ho fama" — I am famous. DPaul was famous several times during these sightseeing excursions, and my cousin Laura noted, "Ah, hai una buona forchetta." You have a good fork. A charming idiom meaning to have a good appetite.

We always have a good fork for these treats, and I’m pleased to note that they are actually rather easy to make at home. Served while still hot, they are crispy on the outside with a gooey mozzarella center inside a firm risotto casing (edit: this is the root of the dish’s full name, supplì al telefono. Evidently the sight of dangling strings of mozzarella cheese is reminiscent of telephone wires, and so several dishes with molten mozz are dubbed "al telefono."); however, they are also still good at room temperature. Next time around I’ll make them a little bit smaller, and serve them as a first course. Recipe after the jump.

(Photo: DPaul Brown)

Measurements are approximate. This works very well with leftover risotto from at least a day before. We used a basic cheese risotto, but almost any kind will work, as long as there are not too many or too large chunks that could cause them to break up.

2-3 c. risotto
2-3 eggs
1/4 lb low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/2" dice
1/3 c. flour
1 c. breadcrumbs or panko
Oil, for deep-frying (not extra-virgin olive oil; corn or vegetable oil will do)

Depending on the wetness of the risotto, whisk one or two eggs and add to the risotto and stir to blend. I’d recommend adding just one egg at first, adding the second if it’s too dry. If it’s too wet to keep its shape, you can incorporate some breadcrumbs.

Have three shallow bowls at the ready — the first with flour, the second with the remaining egg, beaten, and the third with the breadcrumbs. Grab a handful of risotto and form a ball roughly the size of a large egg, rolling between your palms gently. Use your thumb to make a small indentation and add one or two dice of cheese, depending on the size of them. Sometimes, supplì also have either a dollop of sauce or a piece of prosciutto in with the cheese. Close up the risotto around the cheese and roll back into a ball. Roll the ball in flour, then in egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Set aside on a plate until all are formed and ready.

Heat the oil in a fryer or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until a small piece of bread sizzles when dropped in, or until it reaches 300º if you have a thermometer. Fry them, only as many as you can fit in the pan loosely at a time, until golden-brown and crisp on all sides. Drain on a paper towel while you fry the remaining balls. Serve hot with a ladelful of good tomato sauce.

  • I’m coming over in this precise moment, I love supplì! Talk about comfort food, just what I need!

  • Gosh, I guess I really am on a comfort food kick. All my five things to eat before I die were in that category. Well, Ilva, I send you spiritual suppli from the other side of the globe. Tuck in!

  • Sean, So you have cousins in Harare AND Rome? Quite an extended family! I am actually headed to Rome for a conference next month, and now I know of one more dish that will be on my (long) list of things to find and eat – suppli! Excellent post!

  • Indeed … though I just found out that my aunt in Harare is no longer in Harare. She took a position in Washington, D.C., which works out well since her daughter has just relocated there and her son has just started school at UVA. Alas, I’ve missed my opportunity to visit family in Africa.
    The family in Rome is on my mother’s side; she’s full-blooded Italian.