Back to Naples for some inspiration and ideas, there is just so much there to choose from that become magic and a feast in your kitchen and dining room. FRITTATINE is one of those glories of the CUCINA NAPOLETANA. Basically it is a SPAGHETTI or MACARONI CROQUETTE, the cooked pasta is bound with a BESCIAMELLA Sauce, cheeses, enhanced with vegetables and cured meats, then formed and coated in a light batter and fried. Many versions add a bread crumb coating over the batter. My version is the breadcrumbed one. Why? Because anything fried in breadcrumbs usually rocks and it’s SO GOOD with this creamy molten center that you’ll agree after one bite to continue to use the breadcrumb version. Some background on this treat—-I’m always talking about my strong Napoletana heritage as it’s the city where my maternal grandmother lived for 10 years of her life, from 10 to 20. The New York City region is heavily influenced in it’s ItalianAmerican culture by the immigrant Napoletani culture and foods, take spaghetti, take Pizza, take Sausage and Peppers, take Mozzarella, take Zeppole…you get the idea. However, FRITTATINE never really made that leap across the Atlantic like many other Napoletana dishes did. Strange. Now Potato Croquettes (or as the Napoletane called them PANZAROTTI) definitely made the jump, think of all the restaurants that serve them as a side dish, or how many of our own kitchens recreate that treat. FRITTATINE? Never heard of them. Apparently I missed them on a trip to Naples as they are one of the most beloved and popular FRIED SNACKS in the Napoletana Fry shops known as FRIGGITORIE, the best places to sample Naples’ famous street food. One night in NYC at one of the the new wave of Pizzerias to hit the US, the PIZZERIE NAPOLETANE, pizzerias that adhere to a prescribed formula for making the unique Pizza Napoletana (of which the American NYC Pizza is based on) I encountered FRITTATINE. Don Antonio by Starita in Manhattan is a palace of simple Napoletana foods and pizza. A host of other pizzerie have opened in the last 7 years that follow the same certified formula. I ordered the FRITTATINE and was in love. Absolutely love croquettes and this creamy macaroni version made me swoon.Of course I needed to recreate them in my own kitchen and here we are. Aren’t they beautiful? They taste as good as they look. Ones containing prosciutto cotto and peas, provolone and spaghetti or bucatini are the most popular. This is one of those recipes where, AS LONG AS YOU STAY WITHIN WHAT WOULD ORGANICALLY FIT INTO THE RECIPE, you have some wiggle room. Fine dice of cured italian meats….italian greens….italian cheeses…..that’s what’s allowable. I used Finely chopped chard and sopressata in mine. Spinach works too. Provolone, Caciocavallo, Scamorza, PrimoSale, Parmigiano, Mozzarella, Pecorino, Asiago some of the cheeses that work in this. No balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomatoes, or gorzonzola please, and no chicken. please. no chicken. One more rule..lol…No dipping sauce. No side of Marinara. They are rich and creamy and full of complex textures and flavors..no dipping sauce. Overkill. Let’s now fly over to sunny NAPOLI or just stay in your own kitchen and COOK WITH ME! Time to make the FRITTATINE, translates as small fried things, or Fried Pasta Cakes. Frittatine sounds best. FREE-TAH-TEEH-NAY.
MAKES: about 20 2 inch Frittatine TIME: cooking and prep: 3 hours
10 tbsp. UNSALTED BUTTER
1 1⁄2 cups TIPO 00 FLOUR, or SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
4 1/2 cups WHOLE MILK
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. DRIED IMPORTED FROM ITALY SPAGHETTI OR BUCATINI
4 oz. PROSCIUTTO COTTO, or SALAME or SOPRASSATA, finely diced
8 oz. SMALL DICE OF PROVOLONE, or MOZZARELLA, or SMOKED MOZZARELLA
1/4 CUP FINE CHOPPED BLANCHED SPINACH OR SWISS CHARD, or COOKED PEAS
3 TBS. PARMIGIANO REGGIANO GRATED
1/8 TSP. FRESHLY GRATED NUTMEG
OLIVE OIL FOR FRYING (or CANOLA, or VEGETABLE, or PEANUT)
2 cups UNSEASONED ITALIAN BREADCRUMBS
Gently melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and while stirring cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, gently whisking (gently or you will splatter the hot milk/flour everywhere). Once it’s boiling reduce to a simmer and let it cook until thickened, takes about 5 minutes. Make sure to frequently stir so the flour doesn’t collect on the bottom and scorch. Now set this aside, cover the pan with plastic wrap.
If using Spaghetti or Bucatini, break them half. Cook the pasta you are using just till al dente according to the package directions. Drain and shake well to make sure all the water evaporates. Add all the other ingredients except for the besciamella sauce and the breadcrumbs. Mix with the cooked pasta. Now pour the sauce over it and mix well. Press the mixture into a lightly greased baking pan and cover with plastic wrap. Keep in the Refrigerator for no less than one and 1/2 hours.
You can use a 2 inch round cutter OR do what I did, and hand form about 20 of these frittatine. Once they are are formed, place back into the fridge for 10 minutes.
Make the batter by Whisking 1 cup of flours with 1 cup of water to make a batter. Set aside. Pull the Frittatine out of the fridge and dip first into the batter, then into the plain breadcrumbs. Line on parchment paper over trays till they are all coated. Heat a heavy pan or saucepan with 2 1/2 inches of your oil until the thermometer reads 325 degrees F. Now gently add a few of the frittatine at a time into the pan. Fry till golden on each side.
When they are golden on both sides and somewhat firm to the touch, drain on paper towels or paper bags or racks. SERVE immediately..you want them to be very creamy.
Serve with an Arugula Salad with parmigiano, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and lots of fresh lemon juice.
Seriously, how good do they look??? Make them even smaller for a party appetizer or passed hors d’ouevres. Just break up the pasta smaller or use small pasta for it
What fun it is to cook with you…..can’t wait to see your FRITTATINE!! BUONA CUCINA!!!