How To Make Supplì Classici (Classic Rice Croquettes)

Supplì Classici (Classic Rice Croquettes)

A step-by-step guide to making classic Roman rice croquettes from Tasting Rome.

Makes10 supplì

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

I still remember my first supplì, or rice croquette, which I enjoyed one summer in Rome. I bought it in Trastevere, on via San Francesco a Ripa. I sat in nearby Piazza Mastai to eat it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I got down to the melted mozzarella and pulled the bottom part of the supplì away from my mouth, the mozzarella made a long string. I was impressed! 

I spent my days walking around Rome tasting supplì. I learned several things: First of all, there is almost always a cheese end. You have a 50/50 chance of not biting it first. Missing it is your lucky day because you want to end with the cheese. Second, you want a supplì straight out of the fryer, even if it means you have to wait, because the mozzarella will still be melted. A cold supplì means one bite at the “cheese end” will pull the mozzarella out in one rubbery piece. That’s your unlucky day. Third, you want the rice to be al dente. Not dry, not mushy.  

Here, I’ll show you how to make a classic version of supplì at home, in which a crispy exterior gives way to a rich mixture of rice, chicken livers, and pork sausage in a tomato-based sauce. The recipe is based on Ada Boni’s version, from her iconic cookbook The Talisman Italian Cookbook.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Origins of Supplì

Risotto and other rice dishes are common in many parts of Italy, but rice doesn’t play a huge role in Roman cuisine. This fact helps make a case for supplì as an import. Some say their name comes from the French word surprise and credits Napoleon’s troops for bringing them over in the early nineteenth century. Whatever their origin, supplì are served at Rome’s pizzerias and pizza by the slice shops, though most are mass-produced frozen versions with a scary fluorescent orange crust and a filling of meat sauce and mozzarella. The old-school homemade variety used chicken innards instead of beef, and often bits of sausage as well.

You’re probably also wondering what the difference is between Sicilian arancini (or arancine) and Roman supplì. For me, it’s the shape, which is either round or conical (like a Hershey’s kiss!) for arancini and oblong (or egg-shaped) for supplì. Arancini fillings can vary, from ragù with peas and a mozzarella core to mozzarella, peas, and prosciutto cotto and beyond, much like today’s various supplì offerings.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5 Tips for Making Supplì at Home

Here are a few tips for the first-time supplì maker.

  1. Use your favorite risotto. If you don’t like what’s in the classic supplì, please make it with your favorite risotto. Eating is about pleasure.
  2. Prep ahead. Because cooking should also be pleasurable, don’t be afraid to break this into two steps. Make the risotto the day before and put it in the refrigerator to firm up. The next day you only need to set up your breading station and fry away.
  3. Skip the mozzarella center, if needed. If you’re making a lot for a party, skip the mozarella center and make walnut-sized arancini. They will fry quicker and be easier. The cacio e pepe version in my cookbook Tasting Rome is really nice for this.
  4. Use panko. I love to use panko instead of breadcrumbs because the crunch is so much better! Test it out and see which you prefer. 
  5. Let them rest after frying. Last, and maybe most important, let the supplì rest for five minutes after frying. This allows the internal heat to melt the mozzarella.
Credit: Joe Lingeman
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Here's how to make supplì classici.

Supplì Classici (Classic Rice Croquettes)

A step-by-step guide to making classic Roman rice croquettes from Tasting Rome.

Makes 10 supplì

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup

    grated Pecorino Romano cheese

  • 1/2

    small yellow onion

  • 3 ounces

    uncooked pork sausage

  • 3 ounces

    chicken livers

  • 2 tablespoons

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 cups

    beef broth

  • 1 cup

    tomato sauce (about 8 ounces)

  • 1 cup

    arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice

  • 1/2 cup

    white wine

  • 3 to 4

    fresh basil leaves (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 cup

    bread crumbs

  • 3 ounces

    low-moisture mozzarella cheese

  • 4 to 6 cups

    neutral oil, for deep frying

Instructions

  1. Prepare the aromatics. Line a large platter or baking sheet with parchment paper. Finely grate until you have 2/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese. Finely chop 1/2 small yellow onion (about 1/3 cup). Remove the casings from 3 ounces uncooked pork sausage if needed. Finely chop 3 ounces chicken livers.

  2. Cook the sausage and onion. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the sausage in small pieces and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon as it cooks, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 10 minutes.

  3. Cook the livers and warm the broth and tomato sauce. Add the chicken livers and stir, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, until cooked, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, warm 2 cups beef broth in a small saucepan over medium heat and keep at a bare simmer. Warm 1 cup tomato sauce in the microwave or separate saucepan.

  4. Toast the rice. Add 1 cup arborio rice to the livers and stir to coat. Continue stirring until the rice is lightly toasted and becomes translucent, about 2 minutes.

  5. Add the wine and half the broth. Add 1/2 cup white wine. Stir until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about 1 minute, then add 1 cup of the broth. Cook, stirring continuously to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan, until the broth has been absorbed, about 3 minutes.

  6. Add the tomato sauce and more broth. Add the tomato sauce and cook, stirring continuously, until it has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup broth, stirring continuously, until it has been absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. If, once the rice has absorbed the broth, more liquid is needed, add the remaining 1/2 cup broth. The rice is done when it is al dente.

  7. Add the basil, Pecorino, and butter, then cool. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 3 to 4 fresh basil leaves if desired, the Pecorino Romano, and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Spread the rice over the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until cool, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Meanwhile, set up a breading station.

  8. Set up a breading station. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Beat 2 large eggs in a medium bowl. Place 1 cup bread crumbs on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Season the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs with salt.

  9. Cut the mozzarella and shape the rice into balls. Cut 3 ounces mozzarella cheese into 10 pieces. Remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator and form the rice into 10 equal-size, egg-shaped balls. Place on a baking sheet or plate in a single layer.

  10. Stuff each rice ball with mozzarella. Working with one at a time, hold the ball in your palm and make a depression in the center. Place a piece of mozzarella in the depression and re-form the rice around the mozzarella. If the balls aren’t holding together, return them to the refrigerator for 30 minutes more after shaping.

  11. Dredge the supplî. Dredge each supplî first in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off, and finally coat in bread crumbs. Repeat for a thicker crust, if desired. Return to the plate.

  12. Fry the supplî. Heat 2 inches neutral oil in a Dutch oven or medium high-sided or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until 350°F. Line a plate with paper towels. Fry the supplî in batches so as not to crowd the pan, turning once to ensure even browning, until deep golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per batch.

  13. Drain, season, and serve. Transfer to the paper towels to drain, sprinkle with salt, and let sit 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe Notes

Note: Keep the beef broth simmering on the stove so that when you add it to the rice, it doesn’t stop the cooking. For the same reason, use tomato sauce that is warmed on the stove.

Reprinted from Tasting Rome. Copyright © 2016 by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Kristina Gill. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC