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Tuscan Rice Fritters (Fritelle di Riso)

April 1, 2014

Every week on Food52, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home. 

Today: A Tuscan dessert of sugar-crusted, fluffy fritters of rice pudding.

These sugar-crusted, fluffy fritters are essentially deep-fried blobs of rice pudding. You can’t go wrong. 

They like to say in Tuscany, “Fritta è bona anche una ciabatta,” which means even a slipper is good deep-fried. Deep frying is a favorite of Tuscan cuisine and it comes up often, whether by the seaside in fritto misto (mixed, deep fried seafood such as calamari, baby octopus, school shrimp, and little fish that are eaten whole), or in the countryside where deep-fried rabbit and artichokes are beloved spring dishes. 

» RELATED: Baci di Dama (Chocolate-Filled Hazelnut Cookies)

These frittelle di riso start appearing in Tuscan bakeries and food vans parked at fairs around carnival time in February, but are perhaps even more commonly associated with la Festa del Papà on March 19: Italian Father’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day. It’s fitting; aside from being the exemplar father, St. Joseph is also the patron saint of friers (that’s right!). So it seems an auspicious day to be frying up a batch of these sweet, plump fritters for your papà.

Like anything deep fried, these are best eaten while still hot and crisp, so cook these when you have people around to share them with. A batch of these makes many — around 40 to 50 depending on the size.

This is based on one of Pellegrino Artusi’s recipes for frittelle di riso — he lists two in his 1891 cookbook Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. It may look like a very runny batter, but don’t be alarmed. Avoid being tempted to add too much flour to this batter to thicken it; the fritters become hard and even chewy. Soft and pillowy is what you want. The hot fritters are rolled in sugar, which gives a wonderful crunch as you bite into them.  

Tuscan Rice Fritters (Frittelle di Riso)

Makes about 40

1/2 cup (100 grams) short grain rice
2 cups (500 milliliters) milk
Zest of 1 lemon or orange (or a mixture of both)
1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
Splash of rum
1/3 cup (40 grams) flour
2 large eggs
Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

  1. Cook the rice in the milk, watching very carefully that it doesn’t burn or overflow – don’t take your eyes off it! You will need to stir it quite often to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom. When the milk has been mostly absorbed and rice is very soft, take off the heat and add the citrus zest and tablespoon of sugar.
  2. Set aside. Once completely cool, add the rum, eggs, baking powder, salt and flour. Combine thoroughly then cover and let the mixture rest for several hours or overnight in the fridge before using. The mixture may look quite runny, like a pancake batter.
  3. Drop spoonfuls of batter about the size of half a tablespoon into hot oil, and fry, turning to cover all sides evenly until a deep brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain the oil before rolling in sugar and serving – and eating – while still warm, preferably. These are best eaten the day they are made.

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Photos by Emiko Davies

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Tuscan Rice Fritters (Fritelle di Riso)