It is almost impossible to stroll in the historic streets of Palermo without a fritter sandwich in hand. Panelle are chickpea fritters in a mafalda roll a Sicilian bread with sesame seeds. Panelle are among the tastiest street food masterpieces in Sicily. Discover all about its origins and how to make it at home with this easy and delicious recipe!
Even though panelle are considered to be one of the most popular Sicilian delicacies, they arrived on the island during the North African invasions between the 9th and 11th century.Thanks to the culinary attitude and experimentations of North African cultures, the panelle reached the 21st century without any alterations to the original recipe. The Moors would mix the chickpea flour, from legumes that grew all over the Mediterranean Basin, with a bit of water and some spices.
They would extract little pieces that did not taste good when they were raw, so they decided to fry them in boiling hot oil to make a real gastronomic treat. That’s how the first panella was born in Palermo with simple ingredients that would nourish the people. With time panelle reached the dinner plates of nobility and became one of the first foods to travel across social classes, appealing to both common folks and aristocracy.
In the traditional recipe, panelle are always served in a sandwich made of Sicilian bread and should always be eaten warm. In the panelle and bread recipe, there should be no addition of sauce, there should be enjoyed for their authentic taste!
Mix the water and the chickpea flour in a saucepan and mix well to avoid making lumps. Boil the mixture, adding decent amounts of salt and pepper and mix regularly with a spatula.
When the chickpea cream becomes dense and sticks out from the pan, turn off the heat, add the parsley and let the cream cool in a greaseproof container.
Then fry the fritter in an abundant amount of seed oil until they turn golden brown. Place the panelle in Sicilian sesame seed rolls and enjoy the true flavor of the island!
To get a round-shaped fritter, like in the Palermo version of the recipe, the women folk would usually let the dough sit on the back of an old, hollow, slightly damp and greaseproof plate. Fennel seeds can be used as an alternative to parsley.