In 2007, I was living in Florence, Italy, working in Piazza Signoria and one of my favorite things to do was walk and get lost in the charming little nearby streets, always discovering something new and amazing.
My favorite pastry shop happened to be near my job and, one morning during Carnevale, I went over to get my usual croissant. Carnevale, a festive parade, takes place all throughout Italy each year — in every town, even the smallest. Every village celebrates while every family cooks up a storm to honor this century-long tradition of dancing, masquerading and feasting before the fasting and meditating of Lent.
On this particular morning, I discovered a Carnevale specialty: frittelle di riso. Being from Calabria, I was used to our traditional crispelle for Carnevale. But after trying these, they quickly became my favorite Carnevale food. So, I sought out the recipe from a Florentine restaurant owner I knew, and; I have been making frittelle di riso in honor of Carnevale ever since.
Fritelle di Riso
Every village in Italy has their own traditional desserts for Carnevale. Frittelle di riso start appearing in Tuscan bakeries and food vans parked at fairs around carnival time in February.
Like anything deep fried, these are best eaten while still hot and crisp, so cook these when you have people around to share them with. A batch of these makes many – around 40 to 50 depending on the size.
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) short grain rice
- 2 cups (500 ml) milk
- Zest of 1 lemon or orange
- 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 splash rum
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) flour
- 2 large eggs
- Vegetable oil for frying
Cook the rice in the milk, watching very carefully that it doesn’t burn or overflow. You will need to stir it often to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom. When the milk has been mostly absorbed and rice is very soft, take off the heat and add the citrus zest and tablespoon of sugar. Set aside.
Once completely cool, add the rum, eggs, baking powder, salt and flour. Combine thoroughly then cover and let the mixture rest for several hours or overnight in the fridge before using. The mixture may look runny, like a pancake batter.
Drop spoonfuls of batter about the size of half a tablespoon into hot oil, and fry, turning to cover all sides evenly until a golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain the oil before rolling in sugar and serving – while still warm, preferably. These are best eaten the day they are made.
*Note: It may look like a very runny batter, so don’t be alarmed. Avoid adding too much flour to this batter to thicken it; the fritters become hard and even chewy. Soft and pillowy is what you want. The hot fritters are coated in sugar, which gives a wonderful crunch as you bite into them.
Antonella Bonesse is the author of Cucina per Te.
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