A typical street food of Rome, suppli al telefono are delicious fried cones of crispy rice stuffed with melted mozzarella. Perfect as a snack, many people in Rome enjoy one as an appetizer while they wait for their pizza, but honestly they are just as perfect by themselves (and in fact, one is hardly enough!).
They are commonly sold in pizzerie – either eat-in or take-away; but also at good “panifici” (bakeries) and in “gastronomia” (delicatessen and take-away shops).
My love affair with suppli started when I was a child. To be fair, I can’t remember the first time I tried one – for people from Lazio, like half of my family is, it’s a food you just grow up with, much like pasta, pizza and bread. My grandmother use to them for my dad and his brothers whenever she had leftover tomato risotto.
After my dad moved to Sardinia, my grandmother taught my mother how to make them and she’s become the master – she literally makes the best. Her version is quite simple and calls for just a handful of ingredients you should not have trouble finding even at your neighborhood grocery store.
Curious to see how they are made? Continue reading for an easy-to-follow recipe.
How To Make Supplì Al Telefono
- 2 and 3/4 cups (500 grams) arborio rice
For the sauce
- 3 cups (680 grams) top quality tomato passata
- 2.5 cups (600 ml) water
- 1 piece of onion
- 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
For the supplì
- 5 small eggs, whole
- 1/2 pound (250 grams) fresh mozzarella, cut in large sticks
- 1 and 1/2 cups (150 grams) grated parmigiano cheese
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 4 cups frying oil
STEP 1 - PREPARE THE SAUCE
- In a large pot, put the extra virgin olive oil, the tomato passata, the onion in large chunks, fresh basil leaves. Add about 4 cups of water and salt to taste and cook over moderate fire, bringing it to the boil. The sauce should be ready in about 20 minutes.
- Taste the sauce and if you find it too sour, add a bit of sugar.
STEP 2 - COOK THE RICE
- Once the sauce is boiling, add the raw rice and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the rice is cooked, set it aside to cool down for about 3 hours. You can leave it to cool down overnight.
STEP 3 - PREPARE THE SUPPLI
- Take out the onion chunks and the large basil leaves.
- Add the whole raw eggs and mix, then add the grated parmigiano cheese and mix again.
- Take a large spoon of the rice mix and lay it flat on the palm of your hand, making sure it is nice and firm. Lay a chunk of mozzarella and close the mixture around it, giving it the shape of a cone.
- Pass the cone in breadcrumbs and set it aside on a tray.
STEP 4 - FRY THE SUPPLI
- Pour the frying oil in a large pan and heat. Once the oil is boiling, delicately lay the supplì. Depending on how large the pan is, you can fit up to 8 supplì in one - take care to notice that there should be enough oil in the pan to cover them.
- Fry the supplì for about 5 minutes or until golden, turning them occasionally. Once cooked, lay on grease paper to absorb a bit of the oil.
STEP 5 - SERVE THE SUPPLI
- Make sure to serve piping hot!
Serve the supplì as soon as they are ready: they must be eaten hot!
Suppli Al Telefono FAQs
Further to the recipe, here are some additional facts and tips.
Why are they called “suppli al telefono”?
When you break a freshly made suppli in half and the mozzarella pulls apart, it looks like a phone cable connecting the two parts. Hence the name “supplì al telefono” (telephone).
Cook the rice a day early
The idea behind this dish is that of finding a way to use leftover rice. If you are planning to make them from scratch, you may wish to cook the rice a day early, so that it has enough time to cool off. The reason the rice has to be cold is that you will have to add eggs to the mixture, and if the rice is still warm the eggs will cook!
Take out the onions from the sauce
Onions tend to lose water and their taste may change when fried. Only use large chunks when preparing the sauce, and remove them once the risotto is cooked.
Can they be baked?
In general, my motto is “when in Rome, do as the Romans” – in other words, if the traditional recipe says they should be fried, that’s what you should do.
Having said so, if you are health conscious or would rather avoid the smell of fried food in your place, you can actually bake them. Preheat the oven at 180° C (350° F). Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.
How to store suppli
Suppli are definitely best eaten right away, but if – like my mom – you end up making way too much to eat them all in one go, you can actually store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can even freeze them if you want. To store them in the fridge, place them in a deep dish which you can cover with another dish, or with cling film. To freeze them, place them in a freezer bag. To re-heat them, place them in the oven or in the microwave.
Suppli vs. Arancini
Let me start by saying that although both dishes call for rice, and both are breaded and fried, they are not even remotely similar. The shape is different: suppli look like cones; whereas arancini can be round or tear-drop shaped. Secondly, they call for different ingredients: suppli al telefono are made with plain tomato risotto and mozzarella; whereas arancini have ground meat, peas and other ingredients.
So, which one is better? It’s pretty obvious people from Lazio will tell you that suppli are better; while people from Sicily will argue for arancini. Although I am a huge fan of arancini, my heart and taste-buds will forever remain with suppli.
Make sure to read my other posts:
- Where To See The Lovely Cats Of Rome
- The Best Tips For Visiting Rome
- The Most Famous Landmarks In Rome
- The Best Areas Where To Stay In Rome
- How To Make Carciofi Alla Romana
- How To Make Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe
- How To Make Saltimbocca Alla Romana
- How To Make Puntarelle Alla Romana