Supplì are crunchy little balls of rice with a bit of soft mozzarella inside. A finger food that is also a uniquely Italian street food, known by a few but appreciated by many.
Like so many traditional Italian dishes, supplì were created as a way to use up leftovers. The simple ingredients used to make supplì are modest in origin and very economical. For peasant families, cereal production ensured there was always a large amount of rice on their tables.
To vary the taste of the classic white rice, housewives mixed it in tomato sauce and, after breading it with stale-bread crumbs, fried it. Over time, the size and practicality of supplì have made these little rice balls the perfect street food. Strolling around among the great works of Italian art with a supplì in one hand has become an actual lifestyle.
Crunchy outside and soft in, supplì are perfect with a chilled aperitif or to liven up an Italian-style brunch!
Chop the onion fine and sweat it in a large frypan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add the ground beef and brown well, then deglaze with the white wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the tomato sauce, then add the rice and mix well.
Cook the rice, adding beef broth as needed. When the rice is ready, add the butter and Parmigiano and mix well. Add the egg and blend it in. When the rice has cooled off, take a spoonful in the palm of your hand, add a few cubes of mozzarella to the centre and close it up with more rice so as to make a ball. Roll the supplì in the bread crumbs and fry them in hot oil until they are golden-brown and crisp. Drain the supplì on kitchen paper and serve hot.
In some areas in Italy, supplì made this way are called “supplì al telefono”. When you open up the hot supplì using your hands, the mozzarella inside is stringy because of its consistency and the high heat used for frying. The white string recalls the old-style telephone lines, hence the romanticised name for this popular recipe!