Roman "Telephone Style" Fried Rice Balls

16 Feb

Otherwise known as Supplì al Telefono. Yes, today’s lesson is “How to Make Supplì.” Supplì (soo-PLEE) are a traditional Roman appetizer and snack, a fried rice ball stuffed with mozzarella. Why are they often known as “al telefono”? Because legend has it that when you bite into a good supplì, the mozzarella strings out like a telephone line. Personally, that very rarely happens to me, but it’s still a creative name, no?

Now, don’t confuse the supplì with their southern cousins known as arancini (ah-rahn-CHEE-nee). What’s the diff? Roman supplì are fried tomato-flavored rice balls filled with mozzarella, while arancini hail from Sicily and are often a larger, almost pyramid shape, with saffron-flavored rice, meat, mushrooms, and peas.

I’m certainly not the authority on either of these, but here I’ll share how we make them in our house. Everyone has their own variations, but ours are pretty simple: rice and mozzarella. No formal recipe here. I’ll just show you what we do:

What you’ll need:

Tomato puree
2-3 Eggs, beaten
Oil for frying

1. Make the sauce and rice

We use arborio or carnaroli rice—cook it and drain it. At the same time, cook the tomato sauce in another pan using “passata di pomodoro,” a tomato concentrate/puree. We don’t do anything fancy for the sauce; we just put some olive oil in the pan, add a bit of onion and sauté it, then add the tomato sauce and let it simmer.

2. Combine sauce and rice

When the rice is cooked, add it to the sauce mixture. You shouldn’t have a soupy texture, you want just enough sauce to coat the rice. Mix it all together and let it cool so that it becomes sticky.

3. Prepare other ingredients: mozzarella, egg mixture, breadcrumbs

Cut the mozzarella into small cubes. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Pour the breadcrumbs into another bowl.

4. Make the rice balls

When the rice has cooled, form small egg-shaped rice balls, making a small indention in the center where you’ll add a bit of mozzarella. In this photo you’ll see the rice ball is already covered with breadcrumbs which was a mistake we learned from—too much breadcrumbs means the supplì comes out too dry, so don’t be tempted to roll it in breadcrumbs first in order to make it more manageable. If the rice has cooled sufficiently, you shouldn’t have problems getting it to form the right shape.

Then cover the mozzarella with some more rice and carefully dip the rice ball in the egg mixture, then carefully roll it in the breadcrumbs.

Really, folks, that’s pretty much all there is to it—all that’s left is to fry them. If you have a fryer you can use that:

If not, you can create your own fryer by filling a large pot with oil and frying them in that. Here’s the crispy, golden-brown finished product, which I like to call “Dinner al Supplì”:

Ok, I realize that I’m not that good at recipes. The reason is that Ale never uses measurements so I either have to guess or just be generic like I am here. If you want a more professional opinion, check out the recipe from Mario Batali of the Food Network or Kyle Phillips’s from’s Italian Food site. One tip I liked about the recipe is the idea to roll the rice balls in flour before the egg mixture, to keep them from falling apart and help keep your hands from getting too sticky.

Try these out, they really aren’t that difficult and make great snacks. We made a bunch of them and froze them so they are ready to pop in the ol’ fryer whenever we want. In Rome they cost about 80 euro-cents each and you’ll find them at places that sell pizza al taglio (fast-food pizza) or in pizzerie as an appetizer. Buon appetito!


19 Responses to “Roman "Telephone Style" Fried Rice Balls”

  1. Isabelle February 16, 2007 at 10:25 am #

    I’ll try these this week-end !

  2. Jul February 16, 2007 at 11:00 am #

    Sounds yummy. I have the same problem when trying to share recipes – I never measure anything!

  3. Tracie B. February 16, 2007 at 11:20 am #

    what could possibly be better than a fried rice ball? can you answer THAT?

  4. sognatrice February 16, 2007 at 12:36 pm #

    All the arancini I’ve had down here seem to be more like supplì, except that in with the sauce, rice, and mozzarella? Peas. I don’t ask; I just eat. Yum 🙂

  5. christina February 16, 2007 at 4:19 pm #

    Mmm…those look SO good.

  6. aria February 16, 2007 at 4:28 pm #

    these look *awesome*! so simple i think i can handle it, droooooooool.

  7. nyc/caribbean ragazza February 16, 2007 at 4:31 pm #

    Yes, I am adding those to the list of things to eat in Rome, along with gelato, ciambelle, cacio e pepe, etc.

  8. ginkers February 16, 2007 at 4:41 pm #

    Another recipe to add to my collection!

  9. Dixie February 16, 2007 at 10:49 pm #

    Those look insanely delicious!

  10. FinnyKnits February 17, 2007 at 12:23 am #

    OOH! I miss suppli! Nothing like having a suppli appetizer before a fabulous slice of scissor pizza.

  11. J.Doe February 17, 2007 at 2:42 pm #

    They look like the rice and tomato mozzarella balls that I ate in Naples, but those were called arancini. I still don’t understand what the difference is.But they look so good!

  12. Emily February 17, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    Thanks for sharing the recipe. I made ’em today. So good. And what a mess! 🙂

  13. Flambeaux February 17, 2007 at 11:30 pm #

    Oh…I miss suppli! How I miss the Roman dishes I can’t cook!Which reminds me…you don’t know anyone who knows how to make the rosette rolls, do you?

  14. Amy February 19, 2007 at 10:15 am #

    I have missed these sooooo much since I left Roma! I thought of them as a semi-equivalent to Mexican food. 🙂 Anyway, they were amazing. Grazie per la ricetta.

  15. Chris February 21, 2007 at 5:53 am #

    These lovely! Fried Rice Balls…yumm!

  16. Jessica February 23, 2007 at 12:14 am #

    Thanks for the recipe, the husband made these last night and they were delish!

  17. Monica February 4, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    I had these when I was in Rome for Christmas this last year and I can’t wait to make them at home in Colorado!

  18. isi April 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    I miss them very much after i left Rome.
    but now i won’t waste time i’ll make them now. thanks

  19. eliana May 24, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    these were delicious! i went to rome for a semester abroad and these tasted almost as good as the real thing. the too much breadcrumbs tip was very helpful. it also helped us melt the mozz more! thanks!

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