Salt & Wind Travel

{Supplì Al Telefono} Tomato Basil Risotto Balls Recipe

When you travel to Italy, it’s immediately evident: Roman street food is another level.

From local favorites like porchetta, pinza, and trapizzini to well-known classics like pizza and gelato, you could go days just noshing solely on street food and be more than satisfied.

While we were filming the Rome episode of Off Menu we had a hard time deciding which of the many noteworthy foods we wanted to focus on. But the debate was off once we tried the supplì at Supplizio. As the name might suggest, this place specializes in serving the rice ball street snack known as supplì (pronounced “sue-plea”).

Breaded Rice Croquettes Recipe

Supplì Versus Arancini

You may be thinking, “I’ve had fried risotto balls before but they were called arancini not supplì.” Well, supplì are cousins to arancini in that they’re both deep-fried rice croquettes. But, like everything in Rome, supplì are bold and unique.

Arancini (pronounced “are-ahn-chee-nee” and meaning little oranges) are a classic Sicilian street food made with cooked short grain rice, combined with ingredients like the local caciocavallo cheese, breaded, and deep fried. 

Arancini tends to be larger than supplì and formed in a round shape except near Mount Etna where they have a conical form, an homage to the volcano. And arancini clock in about the size of a baseball.

Unlike the supplì, the arancini tend to have the rice separate from the ragù. The arancini rice is usually made like risotto but with a pinch of saffron and then the rice encases the ragù or cheese. Also, the ratio of filling to rice is such that the arancini can get 50/50 filling and rice. 

Also, the arancini are more ancient than the supplì as they are credited with bringing saffron and rice to the island in the 10th century and the snack came about when the working class would mix the rice with leftovers as a hearty snack.

By comparison, the supplì is said to have been introduced to Rome during the 19th century. It’s believed they made supplì as a type of rice meatball, using the rice to add bulk to the meatballs when meat was in short supply. While supplì started as a snack sold by street vendors, it’s known most commonly seen in friggitorie or small shops that specialize in selling fried food. Also, it is smaller and usually formed into an oblong “pill” shape as you see in the photo here. 

Supplì Al Telefono

The word “suppli” is unique and it’s not totally clear where it comes from though some think it might be a variation on the french word for surprise.

By contrast, the “al telefono” part is clearer in that it means “telephone-style.” That is in reference to when the supplì is stuffed with mozzarella cheese. As the supplì is fried the cheese becomes molten and when the croquette is cracked open, a long string of cheese connects them like an old-fashioned telephone cord.

Assembly Of Roman Style Rice Croquettes

Tips For Making Risotto Balls

The supplì at Supplizio are by far the best I’ve ever had and though owner Arcangelo (how great is that name, btw?) has all sorts of amazing versions, I was partial to the classic tomato, basil, and mozzarella combination. These take a while to make but they are very much easy to make ahead (you can even fry them ahead and just warm them in a low oven before serving). There are a few tips that will help make them a success:

  • Give Yourself Plenty Of Time: This recipe requires making a tomato sauce followed by a risotto. Then, once that has cooled, you form the risotto into an oblong shape, stuff it with mozzarella and tomatoes, then bread it and finally fry it. Suffice it to say there is a lot of work, and it will take you a few hours before you get to frying them, so don’t rush. 
  • Don’t Overstuff: Speaking of the filling, resist the urge to overstuff the supplì as it will only make forming them more difficult and if they’re really stuffed, the fillings may burst out the side as you fry them, making for a mess.
  • Use Dampened Hands Or Plastic Gloves: When dealing with the risotto, it can be messy. We suggest using dampened hands or even putting on plastic gloves to form the croquettes to make it easier.
  • Make The Supplì As Compact As Is Reasonable: When you first form the croquettes, they may feel kind of loose and that is okay. As you bread them, and the risotto cools, focus on making them more compact. Our supplì usually start out over three inches in length and end up about 2 1/2 to 3-inches in length and 2-inches wide by the time we’ve breaded them and compacted the shape. 
  • Form The Croquettes And Fry Them Later: Our advice is to form the croquettes and bread them and then fry them at a later time. Often we make the croquettes up to two days ahead of time and keep them covered in the refrigerator until we’re ready to fry them. Resting the breaded croquettes also has the benefit of making the breading stick better. 
  • Have Everything Ready To Go Before You Fry: As with anytime you fry, make sure to have everything set up (the paper-towel-lined plate, the salt for garnish, etc) before you start so that you aren’t scrambling and so you can concentrate on frying.
  • Or Fry Them Ahead And Rewarm Them: These can be made ahead! To do so, fry them up to one day ahead and store them refrigerated until ready to serve. Then warm them in a 250°F oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

Now, go stock up on all your cooking essentials, then head into the kitchen, make this, and share it with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social!

{Supplì Al Telefono} Tomato Basil Risotto Balls Appetizer Recipe

{Supplì Al Telefono} Tomato Basil Risotto Balls Recipe

Romans have a rich street food culture and one of our favorite foods in that realm are suppli al telefono. These {Supplì Al Telefono} Tomato Basil Risotto Balls are fried balls of risotto but they're stuffed with mozzarella and tomato.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Cuisine Italian
Servings 30 Supplì
Calories 135 kcal


For The Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium red onion finely chopped
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 ounces can crushed or pureed tomatoes

For The Risotto:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth or vegetable broth or water (to make vegetarian), warmed
  • 4 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese about 2 cups

For The Suppli Assembly:

  • 8 large eggs divided and well beaten
  • 6 sprigs fresh basil leaves thinly sliced just before using
  • 20 slow-roasted tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces buffalo mozzarella cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs

For Frying:

  • Canola, grapeseed, or peanut oil for frying


  • Make The Tomato Sauce Base: Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion, stir to coat, and cook until soft.
    Season with salt and pepper then add the tomatoes, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes. 
    TIP: Sauce can be made up to three days ahead of time. Store refrigreated in an airtight container before using.
  • Cook The Risotto: Stir in the rice then add the stock, about 1/2 cup at a time. Cook like any other risotto, but only until it is just no longer chalky, about 15 minutes total.
    Remove from stove and stir in the remaining butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, and basil, and mix well. 
  • Assemble The Supplì: Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes then stir in 4 of the beaten eggs until well incorporated. Turn the risotto mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread it out evenly so it can cool down.
    As soon as it is cool enough to touch, after about 15 minutes, divide the mixture into about 25 to 30 portions. Using wet hands or plastic gloves, form each portion into a compact ball like you would for making meatballs.
    Then hold the ball in one palm and using your opposite hand's thumb, make a hole in the middle of each ball. Add in one small piece of slow-roasted tomato and a piece of mozzarella and push down until it's in the middle of the risotto mixture. Push some of the risotto mixture on top of the filling so that the tomato and mozzarella are completely enclosed by risotto. 
    Continue working to shape the supplì into the shape of a large oblong pill (see the photo for references). Repeat to form 30 supplì. Set the supplì on parchment paper or a silicone mat until they are all formed.
    TIP: The suppli can be formed up to one day ahead of time. Store refrigerated in an airtight container before using.
  • Coat The Supplì: Once the 30 risotto balls are formed, they need to be breaded. To do so, place the remaining 4 eggs in a bowl and beat well. Put the breadcrumbs in a separate plate.
    Dip each supplì in the egg then coat well with breadcrumbs and work to make the supplì into a more compact oblong pill shape. Repeat for all the supplì then re-dip them all again in both the egg and breadcrumbs for a double coating. Set the supplì on a cooling rack nested in a baking sheet and set in the refrigerator covered until ready to fry.
    TIP: The suppli can be formed and breaded up to 8 hours ahead of time. Store refrigerated in an airtight container before using.
  • Fry The Supplì And Serve: To fry the supplì, line a large plate or baking sheet with paper towels and have salt nearby. Then place 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high. Add a deep fat thermometer and heat to 375°F.
    Gently place a few supplì in the heated oil (only add enough that they fit in the frying pot without touching each other and the temperature doesn't drop below 350°F).
    Deep fry the supplì, rolling them around with a slotted spoon, until deep golden, about 5 minutes. Remove them and put them on a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain the excess oil. Season immediately with a pinch of salt and repeat to fry all the arancini. Serve warm.
    TIP: The suppli can be fried up to two hours ahead of serving. Keep in a low (~200°F) oven until ready to serve.



Serving: 1gCalories: 135kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 7gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 289mgPotassium: 274mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 808IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 224mgIron: 2mg
Keyword italian street food, rice balls, roman street food
Tried this recipe?Mention @saltandwind or tag #swsociety!

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