Crunchy vegetarian lentil fritters are an easy crowd pleaser, regardless of whether they are vegetarians or not. Typical of Sicilian street food, but also found at many bars and cafes all over Italy at aperitivo time, Italian lentil fritters are perfect for your next dinner party with friends. Try them with one of our Mixart mocktails to complete the Italian aperitivo mood.
Makes approximately 35 lentil fritters
- 200 g dried lentils
- 60 g grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 garlic, crushed
- 100 g potato
- 2 eggs
- 250 g breadcrumbs
- oil for frying
- salt and pepper
Traditionally known as the ‘poor man’s meat’, lentils appear in many traditional Italian dishes such as in soups, braises, vegetable sides, and as an accompaniment to various meats. These lentil fritters are more than just a vegetarian alternative to traditional meatballs – filled with Grana Padano cheese, they are irresistibly delicious for anyone. Finding a single origin is difficult for this popular street food, but it is safe to say that nowadays, you will find them easily all over Italy – from Sicilian food trucks selling fried snacks in paper cones, to a good aperitivo spread at popular city bars.
Lentils themselves have a special place in the Italian cuisine. There are more than 10 different certified varieties of lentils in Italy, ranging from the giant green lentils of the city of Altamura in Puglia, to the famous lentils of Castelluccio in Norcia, Umbria, known for the beautiful plains in which they grow but also for their distinct flavour and thin skin which makes them easier to cook.
The recipe for lentils fritters below uses dried lentils, but if you want to cut the cooking time you can easily substitute the 200 g of dried lentils with the pre-cooked variety - 500 g should do.
1. Soak lentils in cold water for 2 hours. Meanwhile, boil the potato, then peel the skin.
2. Drain lentils and cook in boiling water for approximately 40 minutes until they are creamy and soft. Drain, let cool.
3. Transfer the cooled lentils along with the cheese, garlic, potato, a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processer and puree until smooth.
4. In a deep pan, heat the oil for frying.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl nearby.
6. Taking small portions of the dough, roll into golf ball size fritters. Pass them in the eggs, followed by the breadcrumbs.
7. Check the oil with a thermometer – the ideal temperature for frying is around 170°C. Place the fritters in the oil one by one, without overcrowding them. Cook until they are golden on all sides.
8. Drain on paper towels. Serve whilst still warm.
Did you know that a popular New Year’s Eve tradition followed until this day in many regions of Italy is to eat lentils? Lentils traditionally symbolise money in the Italian culture, so don’t be surprised if you get served a generous portion of lentils on your New Year’s Eve dinner with your Italian friends and family. If they are traditionalists they will accompany the lentils with a nice cut of cotechino (Italian meatloaf), but nowadays, many people may skip the meatloaf and serve fish instead, especially in seaside towns. More lentils mean more prosperity in the new year, so gobble up!