Tag Archives: Southern Italian

Mamma Rosa’s rice balls (polpetti di riso)

Mamma Rosa rules supreme in the “rice ball” world, as we call them.  For as long as I can remember, a plate of steaming hot rice balls appears at any family get together for us all to snack on before the main event.  Countless times over the years she’s been asked to make them for parties of family friends and relatives too.

One Sunday I say to the Marito “I’m going to have a crack at making them myself”.  There is a sharp intake of breath – it is like I am committing a transgression, or heading into some seriously dangerous territory.  I use the recipe she scribed in my little book. I need about another twenty years practice to get them like hers, but I’ll get there.  These are best if you cook the rice a day ahead of making them.

Ingredients
500g long grain rice
200g grated Parmeggiano
5 eggs, lightly beaten
Finely chopped parsley, to taste
Breadcrumbs
Salt
Oil for frying

Making them
1. Cook the rice in a large pot of well salted water. Once cooked, let strain for at least an hour then put the rice in  a large bowl. If you are making them on the day, wait till the rice is completely cooled, otherwise put the rice in the fridge for assembly the next day.

2. To the rice, add the eggs, cheese, parsley and season.  Combine well with your hands.  Once combined, start shaping the mixture into rissoles then roll in breadcrumbs to coat. Once formed, put them in the fridge for at least an hour before cooking.

riceballs-1

Here are my uneven, awkward, and slightly too big ones

riceballs-2

Here are Mamma Rosas petite uniform ones

riceballs-4

3. Heat the oil in a heavy based frypan and fry gently until golden. Serve hot.

riceballs-3riceballs-5

Pasta Sundays

pastasunday

Growing up, every Sunday was pasta Sunday.   We did have pasta dishes other nights too, but Sunday was the day of the traditional, slow cooked tomato sauce. Mamma Rosa would always get up early to start it, so that the meat, usually pork and beef, would gently braise for four or so hours, falling off the bone and luscious to eat. If I were to drop in on any cousin, Zia, Comare or other close family friend on a Sunday before lunch, I would find the same slow cooking sauce going on, it was like there was a code.

These days there is also a vegetarian sauce bubbling away on the stove for my Marito. Mamma Rosa took the non meat eating quite well when I first bought him home for Sunday lunch during the dating phase. My relatives in Italy, not so much. You know that scene from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where there is stunned silence when she tells them all her boyfriend does not eat meat? We had that exact moment with my Zia in Calabria. She had prepared some melanzane ripieni – stuffed eggplant – for our arrival. After a moment of looking at us incredulously, and asking “what do you mean” three or four times, she insisted that he could eat them anyway, because the amount of meat in them was “ ‘na fesseria “, trifling, so it didn’t really count.

But regardless of the sauce, Mamma Rosa’s silky strands of homemade tagliatelle are an absolute treat. Eggs, flour and a little salt. The ingredients seem so simple, but the art is in the lightness of touch, getting the amount of folding and rolling right, and knowing when the sheets are ready to become the pasta. Today we got together for Mamma Rosa’s birthday. When it’s all of us, and our children, its quite a group and the giant oversize pasta pot comes out. It is cooked in a few minutes, drained, the hearty sauce is added, and we sit around the table and the sounds of contentment and slurping of tagliatelle follow.

Zucchini Frittelle

With the bounty of Summer gardens, it was the perfect time to make zucchini frittelle (zucchini fritters). Like crostoli and tiramisu, there are a thousand different versions of these, depending which Nonna you talk to. My Mamma Rosa always uses tomato in hers, and so did my mother-in-law, but a lot of versions you see don’t. Given the season for zucchini flowers is short, you can make these just with zucchini the rest of the year.  I used a 200g zucchini and 100g of flowers; if you don’t have flowers just use 300g of zucchini instead. Or, if you have an abundance of flowers like I did in my kitchen this month, you could use entirely flowers and no grated zucchini, but you will need to add some water to the mixture. You can also use plain or self raising flour (though plain is more typical) – in the ones pictured here I used self raising because when I looked in the cupboard I was out of plain (rookie mistake), and they just come out a little thicker if you do. Replace the eggs with water if you have an egg allergy. (Have I covered every possible permutation yet?).

They are a great snack, or can be part of a selection of antipasto dishes.

zucchinifrittelle

Ingredientsimkjan (8)
1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
100g zucchini flowers, stamen removed, coarsely torn
1 ripe tomato, seeds removed, finely diced
Handful of basil, chopped
1/3 cup grated Parmeggiano
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plain flour
salt and pepper
Canola oil, for frying

Making them
1. Using a wooden spoon, gently combine the zucchini, flowers, tomato, basil and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the egg and combine, then add the flour and gently mix until well combined

3. Heat some canola oil in a frypan, then place a heaped tablespoon in the pan, flattening slightly (or use less to make mini bite sized ones). Once golden on the bottom flip over. You should only need to turn them once. Eat warm or at room temperature (if they last long enough to get to room temperature, they never do at my place).

Mamma Rosa’s Crostoli

DSC02428 (2)

One Sunday morning I say to Mamma Rosa, “let’s make some crostoli”. I think she can make these in her sleep. In our particular neck of the Italian-Australian community, my mother is very well known for her biscuits and sweets – her amaretti, almond bread, and crostoli rival any pasticceria. You can see her hands kneeding the dough – hands well worn from years of loving toil spent on her family.  There are lots of different versions of crostoli, and lots of stories about what part of Italy they originated from. This is the version my mother has been making for as long as I can remember. Some people also add lemon zest; different types of alcohol can be used – instead of whisky, you can use brandy, white wine, Marsala or a liquor called Millefiori; some versions use butter instead of oil. So there are a lot of possible variations. Extra hands make light work for this, the two of us had it all done in about an hour. For frying, you can use olive oil, canola oil, or rice bran oil.

Ingredients
3 eggs
1/3 cup caster sugar
½ tbsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup whisky
40ml olive oil
2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 cup self raising flour, sifted
Oil for frying (about 750ml)
Icing sugar for dusting

Making them
1. In a bowl, add eggs, caster sugar, vanilla, whisky and oil. Beat with an electric mixture until sugar is dissolved and the mixture pales
2. Fold in flour until a dough forms. If it still seems too sticky, add a little more flour but make sure the ratio of plain to self raising is 2:1
3. Gently knead the dough until smooth. Divide dough into eight equal portions, and flour each portion lightly
4. Using a pasta roller on the widest setting, roll each portion into strips. You may need to fold and roll a couple of times until smooth
5. Set the machine to a narrower setting (on our machine we set it to number 2) and roll the sheets through
6. Using a pastry wheel, cut the dough into strips, with a small slit through the middle, then fold through the hole to form a little twist
7. Head the oil in a deep pan (a wok works well) and gently fry in batches until golden. They will fry very quickly so don’t stray from the cooktop! Place on a paper towel to cool.
8. Dust liberally with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container. You can re-dust them with icing sugar before serving.

crostoli1

crostoli2
crostoli3
crostoli4