When the rice balls are fried, the outer coating gets crisp and brown, while the rice inside stays creamy with a melted cheese center. When bitten into, the mozzarella pulls out to resemble strands of telephone wires. So the dish got its name supli, suppli al telefono. Suppli are excellent for using up left-over risotto. Supplì are usually eaten with the fingers: when one is broken in two pieces, the mozzarella becomes drawn out in a string somewhat resembling the cord connecting a telephone handset to the hook. Originally supplì were sold at friggitorie, typical roman shops (nowadays disappeared) where fried food was sold. Now they are commonly served in each pizzeria all around Italy as antipasto.
3 tbsp butter
1 small onion finely chopped
1.5 l risotto rice
75 g grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
9 basil leaves, torn in half
150 g mozzarella cheese, cut into 18 cubes
150 g dried breadcrumbs
oil for deep-frying
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over low heat for 3 – 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Heat the stock to simmering point in another saucepan.
Add the rice to onions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute to seal the rice. Add several ladles of the hot stock, stirring continuously so that the rice cooks evenly. Keep adding enough stock to just cover the rice, stirring frequently. Continue in this way for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is creamy on the outside but still al dente.
Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmezan cheese and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread cut on the large baking tray to cool completely.
Divide the rice into 18 portions. Take one portion in the palm of your hand and place a piece of basil and a cube of mozzarella in the centre. Fold rice over to encase the cheese and at the same time mould the croquette into an egg shape. Roll the croquette in breadcrumbs and place on a baking tray while you make a rest.
Heat enough oil in a deep-fat fryer or deep frying pan to fully cover the croquettes. Heat the oil to 180°C, or until a piece of bread fries golden brown in 15 seconds when dropped in the oil. Deep-fry the suppli in batches. without crowding, for about 4 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve at once, as they are or with a fresh tomato sauce.