Italian rice balls or frittellini di riso

I can’t believe we’re already halfway through February! I’m still adjusting to the sudden cold of being back in Europe. One of the hardest things about being an expat is always going without someone or something. This rings true only if you’re ridiculously attached to the friends and family you left behind when you moved overseas. Obviously, if you’re not the sentimental sort, like my husband, you adjust better, but I always find myself wishing I was on the other side of the world. And besides, even if you’re not big on family, there are still the things you always miss like the language or your favourite stores/restaurants or the convenience of the life you built for yourself. I always sound like I’m pining for Australia, but I missed Tuscany plenty while I was overseas and I’m glad to be back to my old life and old independence, happy to be back at work and happy to be back with Giulio. Since the tables are now turned and I’m missing my family, I thought a little culinary cheering up was in order.

As you can probably tell, I’m very culinarily minded at the moment. I’m constantly cooking and baking to keep my mind and hands busy. This recipe is one of my family’s favourites and something you’ve probably never come across. We call them frittellini, which just means fritters in a very vague sense of the word and, while you’ve never tasted these, you might have had their very similar cousin, the arancini. Yep, these are fried rice balls, except we’re combining rice and potatoes to create a fritter that is as crunchy as a baked potato on the outside and as fluffy and soft as cotton candy on the inside. Us Italians are pretty set on simple and unfussy, which means these fritters are, unlike arancini, seasoned with nothing more than parsley, pepper, salt and a handful of parmesan cheese for a little bit of gooey goodness. Of course, you can stuff them with anything under the sun. I’ve tried this recipe with finely sliced bits of pancetta, mushrooms, peas and even tuna – all terribly non-traditional, but utterly delicious.

The best part about this recipe is that these fritters are actually meant to be served cold. My nonna would make a truly colossal batch whenever she had a few potatoes lying around. After frying them, she’d settle the fritters on a tray with a layer of paper towel and leave them in the cold oven. If you were lucky enough to visit, you’d shove as many of them in your mouth before your siblings discovered what you’d found.

These fritters would make the perfect antipasto with a selection of cold cuts or as part of a roaming list of finger foods. They’re easy to prepare and terribly addictive, so make sure you make enough to go around!

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frittellini di riso

250g long-grain rice
2 medium sebago (starchy) potatoes, peeled and chopped
1⁄2cup finely grated parmesan
1 medium-sized eggs, lightly beaten handful of flat leaf parsley
1 egg, extra
200g breadcrumbs
vegetable oil, for frying

Cook the rice and potatoes in separate saucepans of salted boiling water until very soft. Drain and season with salt. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth. Refrigerate the mashed potatoes and rice in separate bowls overnight.

Combine the rice and potatoes in a bowl. Add the parmesan, parsley, beaten eggs and pepper and mix well to combine. Test a handful of the mixture by squeezing it together in your hands. If it breaks apart, add another beaten egg to get a nice, sticky mixture.

Break the extra egg into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Using wet hands, shape tablespoons of the rice mixture into ovals. Dip in the egg and press into the breadcrumb to coat.

Fill a large frying pan two-thirds with oil and place over medium heat. Cook the frittellini for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Makes 18.

One to add to your repertoire of finger party foods? Definitely!

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