Think you know rice balls? Think again. While you might have tried the more popular arancini, if you haven’t had suppli, you are missing out. Think of it has the tomato-based cheesy cousin of the typical rice ball. We went to Trappizino to learn the recipe.
1 lb ground beef
1 lb carnaroli rice
32 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
½ small Spanish onion
1 celery stalk
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
½ bunch basil, rough chopped
¼ bunch thyme, finely chopped
¼ bunch sage, finely chopped
1 dried bay leaf, finely chopped
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground juniper berries
½ cup red wine
2 tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ lb grated grana padano
1 lb ball mozzarella
4 cups breadcrumbs
4-6 jumbo eggs
2 L canola oil
Puree the canned tomatoes in a food processor or hand blender. You can also crush them with your hands but be prepared that it does get messy.
Finely chop the celery, onions and carrots by hand or in a food processor. Sautée them in the evoo on medium heat until slightly brown. Add the ground beef, being sure to break it up in the pan with the wooden spoon or spatula. It will let out a bit of moisture so it is important not to stir it too much in order to get good color on it (this is a good time to raise the flame to high). When nicely browned, add the spices and herbs, reserving 2/3 of the parley for later use. This should create a bit of a crackling sound as the oils toast. After a few seconds, deglaze with the red wine and season with salt and pepper. When the wine has fully reduced, add the pureed tomato, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
In a separate pan, toast the rice on medium heat in a little evoo until slightly toasted. Be sure not to overtoast the rice as it will make it hard to cook evenly. “Toasting” the rice gives off a nutty aroma and is a nice way to kick-start the cooking process but should not impart significant color. Slowly ladle the sugo (ground beef mixture) into the risotto about 8-12 oz at a time, stirring constantly. Be sure to keep stirring the risotto during the entire process, which is very important in order to bring out the starch and create the “creaminess” of the risotto.
When about half of the sugo is incorporated, add another third of the parsley (leaving 1/3 for finishing) and a bit more salt and pepper. You may not need all of the sugo to cook the rice. The rice should be al dente (because you will fry it later and it will cook more) and the consistency should be slightly stiffer than a traditional risotto or one that you would serve hot. If it is too wet or soup-like it will be hard to form into balls later (although the shape is oval, we refer to them as balls).
When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat, add the grana padano and the remaining 1/3 of the parsley. Finish seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste - keeping in mind if the mozzarella is salted or unsalted and that you will be breading it and frying it. Because of this the risotto can be slightly saltier than you would generally eat it.
Pour risotto mixture into a baking tray or sheet pan to cool. The starch and the protein from the meat in the sugo will become stiff when completely cool and will allow you to form the balls.
While the risotto is cooling in the fridge, cut the mozzarella into thin strips. Longer, thinner strips are better to ensure the cheese melts throughout the suppli. This is importatnt so when you crack it open you can make the “suppli al telefono” or telephone wire effect from the strings of melty cheese.
When the risotto is cool and stiff to the touch (about 2 hours) portion it into balls of about 3 oz or 120 g, laying them out on to a sheet tray. Leave a large thumbprint in each ball to signify that it needs to be filled with cheese (you don’t want to loose track!). Place a mozzarella strip in the center of each ball and form the risotto around it creating an oval shaped suppli. Beat the eggs until smooth. With your right hand, coat the suppli in breadcumbs, shaking off the excess. Dip the suppli in the egg briefly and shake it in your left hand until well coated but the excess egg has dripped back in the bowl. Place it back in the bowl of breadcrumbs to be completely coated with your right hand, being careful not to switch hands or you will get egg in your breadcrumbs and the suppli will have too much breading. Alternatively, you may want to work with a partner and use two bowls of breadcrumbs, one for before the egg and one for after. Once the suppli are breaded, they can fried immediately or refrigerated for up to two days before frying.
Heat the canola oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit in a pot deep enough to hold 4-5 suppli completely submerged. It’s important to remember that the suppli will raise the level of the oil so be sure to have at least 5 inches of space available in the pot before you drop them in. Cook each suppli for 5 minutes in the fryer. Then rest them on a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before cracking in to them.