Suppli al Telefono
Supplì al Telefono are fried balls of rice seasoned with tomato sauce and cheese. They are a classic Roman-style street food, or appetizer, meant to be eaten by hand. This recipe includes green peas instead of meat. You could choose to add a little ground beef or fried pancetta.
Instead of long grain white rice, try using Carnaroli or Arborio rice. If you’d like to make them gluten free, use gluten-free breadcrumbs.
The name “Supplì al Telefono” is derived from the fact that when you bite or pull the supplì apart, the melted mozzarella forms a long string, similar to that of an old-fashioned telephone cord.
In 1967, my mother discovered supplì in a quaint ristorante in Taormina, Sicily. As soon as she returned home to Canada, she worked on a recipe with my Nonna who was a great cook. Every dinner party growing up included a large platter of suppli prominently displayed on our table. Guests loved this new and unique treat and requested them often.
This is a great way to use up leftover rice and tomato sauce. The rice mixture can easily be made ahead of time and left in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make and fry the rice balls. I like to use grapeseed oil for frying due to its mild flavour and high smoke point.
Quick Tomato Sauce (with peas)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium onion, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 660 ml/23 oz. jar tomato passata (strained crushed tomatoes)
- ¾ teaspoon dry oregano
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup of frozen peas (optional)
- In a medium size pot, heat olive oil on medium. Add onion and garlic and fry until translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add tomato passata, oregano, salt, pepper and water. Increase heat to med-high, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add peas and cook for an additional 5-10 min.
Supplì al Telefono (rice balls): makes 10-12
- 5 cups cooked long-grain white rice (cooled or room temperature, fluffed with a fork)
- ¾ cup tomato sauce (cooled or room temperature)
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 large Ontario egg, beaten
- 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup dry plain breadcrumbs, or gluten-free breadcrumbs (2 tbsp. for rice mixture, ½ cup for coating rice balls)
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese, cubed small
- ¾ cup grapeseed oil for frying
- In a large bowl, add rice and gently fold in tomato sauce careful not to break rice up too much. Evenly toss to make sure all the rice is coated with sauce.
- Add Parmigiano-Reggiano to the rice and toss. Taste for seasoning, adjust accordingly with salt and or pepper if necessary.
- Add the egg and 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs to the rice.
- Divide the rice into even portions or place (approximately 5-6 tablespoons) into one hand and form a ball. If you feel the rice is too soft add a little extra bread crumbs to help bind. Create an indentation in the centre of the rice ball with your thumb and add about 6 cubes of mozzarella to the centre. Close the centre up and form a nice even ball. Have a bowl of cold water nearby to wet your hands occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to them.
- Coat each ball with the remaining ½ cup of breadcrumbs, pressing gently with your hands to shape the rice balls. You can repeat this step a couple times to make sure they are well coated.
- Heat the oil in a medium sized fry pan until nice and hot but not smoking. You want the mozzarella in each ball to melt without the rice burning. In batches, fry the rice balls, gently tossing them with a fork to ensure they are evenly browned all over, approximately 6-8 minutes each.
- Remove the rice balls from the oil with a fork and place on an absorbent paper like a sheet of brown paper bag or paper towels.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. You may choose to serve a little of the remaining tomato sauce on each plate with a supplì on top.