Italians love marking every celebration and festival with a traditional food item.
Around the time of Carnevale and the feast day of St Joseph (which in Italy is also Father’s Day), you’re likely to start seeing some delicious sweets known as Frittelle.
Frittelle are rice cooked in milk then mixed into a sweet dough, formed into little balls, fried and then sprinkled with sugar. They are delicious served whilst still so hot they burn your fingers, and remain just as yummy served cold in the days following.
Last weekend we passed our Sunday afternoon in a little makeshift kitchen nestled in the Tuscan village town just out of Florence, making Frittelle.
The locals came by the hundreds to buy these traditional Italian sweets, not just because we were fund raising for a good cause*, but because they are DELICIOUS!
As with any traditional recipe, there are variations from region to region, but below is our favourite Frittelle recipe of the moment. It makes around 30-40 portions, but they are small in size so go for it!
– 200 gr rice
– 600 gr milk
– 300 gr water
– 2 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
– 80 gr unsalted butter
– 80 gr sugar
– sultanas (highly disputed optional – and dispute we will)
– 2 spoonfuls of Rum (or Vinsanto or Marsala)
– finely grated lemon zest
– finely grated orange zest
– a pinch of salt
– sunflower oil for frying
In a large saucepan, heat the milk and water then add in a pinch of salt and ½ of the butter. Next, in goes half of the sugar. Stir well. Now add in the rice and the citrus zests. Bring to a light boil until all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. At this point, add in the remaining sugar and butter whilst still hot so it melts nicely when you mix well.
Remove from the heat and allow the rice to cool, even overnight, as the rice needs to be nice and stiff for when you form the Frittelle balls. Then you can mix in the egg yolks.
Beat the egg whites until you form stiff peaks. Then in they go too, together with the run. If you want to add the sultanas, go ahead. Many may not like it, we don’t like it, but it’s up to you.
Now, blend everything together really well. You should have a rather stiff mixture to work with.
Heat up oil in a non-stick pan. Take the mixture of rice and either use two teaspoons to create little ball forms or simply make with your hands. They should be about half the size of a golf ball, to give you an idea (and much, MUCH nicer to chew on).
Cook in the oil until they are nice and golden on the outside. If the mixture has been made to perfection and you’ve used enough oil and you haven’t overcrowded the pan, the balls should turn over on their own once they are ready to be cooked on the other side. If not, just turn with a slotted spoon and no-one shall be any the wiser.
Once nicely golden all around, drain on some absorbent kitchen towelling and sprinkle with sugar.
Just as polemic as whether you should add sultanas or not is the question of which sugar you should use.
We prefer the traditional normal sugar although there are those who insist on icing sugar instead. If they are the same people who also like sultanas in their Frittelle, you may want to give some thought as to if you still want to be friends with them.
In either case, the end result is fried-crunchy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. And it’s delicious! You may think making 30-40 of these babies will be more than enough, but you’d be wrong.
For great insight into the best places to eat in Italy, ask the locals! You can meet lots of foodie locals on our small-group Italian Food Tour in Florence!
To learn to make delicious, typical Italian recipes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence and Cooking Classes in a Tuscan Villa.
* Part of the proceeds will be going to support a local troop of historical parade musicians and flag-throwers. Part goes towards funding a school in a poorer nation.