Marina Sassu is a cordon bleu cook, has a Masters Degree in the Economic History of Rome, and is Roman to the very roots of her hair. So when she offered to take me on a tour of the city’s food markets, I jumped at the chance.
These croquettes are called supplì al telefono in Italian; ‘telephone style’ because when you split them open while they’re hot, the melted mozzarella centre forms a string between the two halves like an old fashioned telephone!
(serves four to six people)
500g Arborio rice;
500ml homemade tomato ragù sauce;
4tbsp grated Parmesan cheese;
knob of butter; 1 whole egg plus 2 yolks, beaten;
200g day-old mozzarella or fior di latte;
100g homemade breadcrumbs;
olive oil for deep frying.
This is a good way to use left over risotto, but even when cooking the rice from scratch be sure to use a starchy rice such as Arborio so the rice is sticky enough to be formed easily into cylinder shapes. Similarly, any left over tomato sauce is good for this recipe although tradition calls for a tomato sauce in which a piece of meat has been cooked so there are little scraps of meat to be found and the sauce is more flavoursome.
Heat the tomato sauce and add the rice. Cook it as if you were making a risotto and continue until the rice is very al dente (try not to overcook), adding ladlefuls of hot water as required as the rice absorbs the tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and mix in the Parmesan cheese and the butter. Leave to cool. Before the rice mixture is completely cold, stir in the beaten egg. Put in fridge and leave until ready to make the rice balls.
Cut the mozzarella or fior di latte into small rectangles about 1cm x 2cm. (Fresh mozzarella releases too much milk so be sure to use one that’s at least a day old.) To form the croquettes, take small handfuls of the cold rice mixture and press a piece of mozzarella into the centre. Making sure the mozzarella is well sealed inside, form the rice into small croquettes. Roll croquettes in the breadcrumbs then shake to remove excess crumbs that will only burn in the hot oil. Heat the olive oil in a deep pan, and fry croquettes in small batches until golden brown all over. Drain well on kitchen paper and eat hot.
Variation: along with the mozzarella in the centre of the croquettes you can add a few peas, some chopped ham or some finely chopped sautéed mushrooms.