Suppli Alla Romana: Risotto Balls stuffed with Mince and Mozzarella
I absolutely adore these balls, so much so that they are my favourite balls. I love them more than any other ball: much more than chocolate balls, meat balls, mozzarella balls, fish balls, moth balls, tennis balls, soccer balls, ping-pong balls, badminton balls, any balls. These balls have everything you’ll ever want in a ball: starch, tomato, meat and melted cheese, oh and did I mention they are deep-fried.
The combination of the tomato risotto, mince, melted mozzarella, and the scent of origanum enclosed in a golden crust results in a sensory trip to Italy. The smell of origanum hits you as you bite into one of these balls, the tangy tomato grabs your taste buds and they begin to zing. As you reach the centre you are met by the salty surprise of mince then by the even better surprise of rich oozing melted mozzarella. Every now and then you bite into a pea, another textural surprise as they gently pop in your mouth. The crispy crust and the soft inside creates the perfect textual balance.
The recipe I have given below is my favourite combination, but do not let this sway you against other wonderful amalgamations. Most of the time suppli (risotto balls) are made with left-over risotto – I never seem to have any risotto left-over, so I make risotto especially to make suppli.
If you are one of those people you are able to sustain from eating every last grain of risotto, then use your left-over for suppli and add anything you like in the middle, although I would suggest that you do not leave out the cheese (it possibly is the best part).
I have made suppli stuffed with Italian sausage and mozzarella – also decadently divine. You can also make quite a simple risotto and stuff it with a strong cheese like Gorgonzola. Parma ham and mozzarella would also work a treat. The choices are quite vast, it’s just a matter of mixing flavours that work well together.
I like to serve my balls with an antipasti salad of mixed grilled peppers, grilled aubergine and grilled courgettes accompanied by crusty bread. I like the mixture of the vinaigrette from the salad with the rich suppli . These balls also work tremendously well served swimming in a bowl of napoletana sauce – again the tart sauce works well to cut through the richness of these balls. A lovely green salad will work too.
The recipe below may seem quite long and a little complicated – it’s not, I urge you to try them, or at least make some out of left-over risotto. But be aware that once you eat suppli no other ball will ever quite satisfy you in the same way
Prepare for your mouth to go on a textural journey:
For the Risotto:
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of chopped origanum
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper
250g Arborio rice
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
¼ cup of white wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cups (500ml) chicken stock
½ cup of frozen peas
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and origanum and sweat for 5-7 minutes or until the onion is tender but not brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes allowing the rice to toast slightly. Add the tomato paste and wine. Bring to the boil and cook off the alcohol. Add the chopped tin of tomatoes and stock. Bring back to the boil, boil for 3-5 minutes and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer on a gentle heat, stirring occasionally to ensure the rice does not stick, for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. Add the peas and stir. Now add the butter and Parmesan, and do NOT stir. Take off the heat and, place the lid on the saucepan. After 5 minutes, take off the lid and stir in the butter and Parmesan. Cover and put somewhere to cool.
*Note: You don’t have to add the stock ladle at a time because the rice will end up stodgy anyway once it has cooled and will also become a little more cooked as it cools.
For the Mince:
½ tablespoon of olive oil
¼ Onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
teaspoon of chopped origanum
200g of lean beef mince
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon of barbeque spice
Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the onion, garlic and origanum. Sweat till the onion is tender but not brown. Add the mince and barbeque spice and tomato paste and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the mince is cooked. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Cover and allow to cool.
To assemble the risotto balls:
200g of mozzarella cheese
200g bread crumbs
1 cup of flour
2 eggs, beaten and mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Chop the mozzarella into cubes the size of dice. Take about 2 tablespoons of rice mixture in your hand and on top of the rice place about a teaspoon of mince. Now enclose the mince with the rice mixture, so as the make a ball of risotto stuffed with mince. Now push a piece (or two) of mozzarella into the centre of the rice ball. Re-form the ball neatly, pulling the rice back over the cheese and making sure it is completely enclosed. What you should have is a ball of rice stuffed with mince and mozzarella. Repeat the process until all the rice is finished, you’ll probably end up with 12-14 balls.
Now, coat the rice balls in the flour, then in the beaten egg and finely in the breadcrumbs.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or a deep saucepan and fry the balls in batches for 2-3minutes, or until golden. Drain well on kitchen paper and serve immediately.
Serve with mixed, grilled peppers or a tomato sauce or with a side green salad.