Tuscan Rice Fritters (Fritelle di Riso)

March 18, 2014

Every Tuesday, 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.

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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. 

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

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emiko Davies

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The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.