Welcome back to our Fritti series! In our last installment we fried mozzarella cubes (not sticks), fried stuffed olives like they do in Ascoli, and mozzarella in carrozza: fried cheese sandwiches. Today we share origin and recipe of a delightful street food specialty hailing from the fritti-forward city of Naples. Say hello to frittatine napoletane.
Out and about and feeling a grumble in your stomach? If you were in Naples you could stop virtually anywhere and ask for a couple frittatine napoletane displayed in the window. This has nothing to do with Frittata di Pasta, although it was originally born to use pasta leftovers.
These delicious frittatine are best enjoyed while strolling through the alleys of Naples or while waiting to be seated at the pizzeria. An authentic Neapolitan street food delicacy that is truly hard to resist. If you are hungry after reading this, here’s how to make your own.
Ingredients for approximately 25 frittatine napoletane
For the bechamel:
4 cups of whole milk, heated
5 oz (150 g) butter
3/4 cup (100 g) all purpose flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
For the filling:
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 large white onion, minced
2 cups (250 g) ham, cubed
2 cups (250 g) cooked peas
7 oz (80 g) Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
500 g bucatini pasta
2 cups (250 g) smoked cheese, cubed
For the batter:
10 fl oz (300 g) water
1 1/4 cups (150 g) all purpose flour
4 cups (1 liter) frying oil
Start making the béchamel. Melt the butter in a saucepan over very low heat. As the butter starts to bubble, use a wire whisk to mix in the flour until fully blended. Add the warm milk a little at a time, as the flour cooks it solidifies, keep adding more milk and incorporate into the béchamel. Keep whisking until smooth. Cook the béchamel over medium/low heat for at least 5 minutes. It will thicken and release steam, with scattered bubbles. The consistency should be creamy. Season with salt and nutmeg and mix well off the heat. Set aside for later.
Next prepare the filling. In a large sauté pan heat 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and sweat 1/4 white onion until translucent. Fold in the diced ham and stir for 5 minutes. Add in the cooked peas and stir to cook another 5 minutes. Moisten the peas and ham with some water and keep cooking until most of the water evaporates. Adjust seasoning and remove from the heat. Add the peas and ham mixture into the béchamel and stir to mix evenly. Stir in the grated cheese until fully incorporated.
Put a large pot of water to boil, salt generously and cook your bucatini al dente. Drain well and in a large bowl dress the cooked pasta with the béchamel filling. Add the cubed smoked cheese and stir.
Pour the dressed pasta onto a non-stick oven sheet. Smooth out any uneven parts and flatten with a spatula. Let it cool completely (3 hours in the fridge or freezer, or overnight on your kitchen counter, covered).
For the batter, whisk together 1 1/4 cups of flour and 10 fl oz of water in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Using a 3-inch round pasta cutter cut out discs from the chilled mixture and place on a clean work surface. Quantities should yield about 25 discs. Using gloves or wet hands, mold the discs if any loose strands escape the cut. Dip the pasta cutter in water to avoid the discs sticking to the stainless steel sides of the pasta cutter, and add any other loose pieces to previously cut discs. Remember: no waste!
Line up two bowls, one containing the batter and another filled with the breadcrumbs: dip the discs in the batter and coat evenly in the breadcrumbs. This is a task that’s best performed with a helper, one with wet hands and one with dry hands.
Fill a large saucepan with 4 cups of oil for frying (I use peanut oil, or sunflower seed oil) and heat it up to 350° F. The more oil you use for deep frying, the better and the less greasy the result will be. Trust me!
Drop the coated discs into the hot oil and fry in small batches (2-3 at a time). Fry until a golden crust forms, about 1 minute per side. Fish out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined serving platter. Season with salt while still hot and serve immediately. The outside will be crispy and golden, while the interior will be deliciously creamy and oozy, with strands of melted cheese. Open up a couple of beers and prepare for loud moaning.
It may take a few tries to get frittatine napoletane right. But the reward will be totally worth it.