Please meet panzarotti napoletani. And yes, I specify the Neapolitan origin because although you will find all types of potato croquettes in Italy, these panzarotti are one of the symbols of Neapolitan street food, together with montanare – just to mention one among many. And they are good: potato-based (which we pretty much all love) with a melting heart of mozzarella! They are the same principles of goodness as for gattò di patate, in a way, but because panzarotti are deep fried, they are on a whole new level of awesomeness.
Talk to any Neapolitan person, mention panzarotti and an incredible smile and expression of endless pleasure will appear on his or her face. When you go to a pizzeria in Naples, fritto misto is a must and panzarotti will always be there, accompanied by zeppoline fritte, rice balls and mozzarella balls.
Many are the memories of a large tray on the kitchen sideboard at my parents’ house: all there, lined up next to each other, ready to be deep fried. The perfect starter and beginning to a family Sunday lunch.
Panzarotti are a simple starter made with very simple ingredients. I will never stop being amazed at the goodness that comes with such simplicity. It’s mostly potatoes, eggs and parmesan. DONE. I still struggle to understand why many recipes I have come across must contain 123,789,475 ingredients. Isn’t simple and tasty good enough?
Panzarotti are a perfect example of the pleasure and the taste that simple food can offer you. Unfussy, unpretentious dishes, just like so many others I grew up with and that I am posting on here.
In fact, there’s a reference panzarotti in my article that was featured last Saturday in the Catholic Herald (Cooking taught me the meaning of love): I mention “my grandparents’ petty arguments about how big the panzarotti should be…”. And it is quite accurate, as every time you make panzarotti there will be arguments about how big they should be. My mother is for making them quite fat, so the first time I made them myself here in London she exclaimed: “Are these panzarotti on a strict diet? They look a bit slim to me…!!”
You know how you say in the UK that a cup of tea solves everything? In the same way, we Neapolitans would say that where there is a panzarotto there is hope and joy!
Give them a go, and please don’t waste time feeling guilty about their being deep fried. These are a treat, to make and eat with your friends and family on a happy, chilled day. Just make sure you use high-quality oil and it will be fine! I sometimes struggle to understand this obsession with superfoods. What is going to happen to the rich and precious culinary tradition passed down by generation to generation?! Please keep making good food: it is so good for your soul and your mood. Use fresh and good-quality ingredients, and go for a run or play tennis… There is a way to eat well and keep in shape. Where there is a will there is a way! 🙂
Serves 4 – makes 8 panzarotti
- 1kg potatoes (the brand you buy to make mashed potato)
- 2 eggs
- 70g parmesan
- Salt and pepper
- A big bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 250g mozzarella, chopped into strips and well drained
- Peanut oil to fry
- About 250g fine breadcrumbs
- 3 egg whites
Wash the potatoes well. Add them unpeeled (so they do not absorb too much water) to a large saucepan of cold salted water.
Bring to the boil and wait until the potatoes are soft enough for a fork to go through the middle with no resistance. It will take at least 40 minutes.
While waiting let the mozzarella drain. Place it in a sieve with a plate underneath it. If it still seems too wet, use some kitchen paper to take all the liquids out.
When the potatoes are ready, and still hot, peel them and chop them roughly. Mash them with a potato ricer, still while they are hot.
Let them cool in a large saucepan.
Add the eggs, a pinch of salt for each egg, some pepper and the parsley.
Mix everything well with your hands until you obtain a smooth and compact mixture.
Flatten the mixture evenly. Take about 90-100g of potato mixture and place it in your palm. Create a well in it. Add a piece of mozzarella. Very carefully close the sides of the wrap together to create an oval shape with the mozzarella well hidden and protected in the middle. We need to make sure that it does not get out during the frying stage. You will need to work it a bit to get the right shape (with nowhere for the mozzarella to escape!).
Carry on until the potato mixture is finished. Place the panzarotti on a dish next to each other.
Prepare two plates. One plate is for the egg whites. Add them to the plate and whisk for a few seconds with a fork.
In the second plate add 2 tablespoons of fine breadcrumbs.
Dip a panzarotto first in the egg whites. It is a delicate step and you need to be gentle to avoid the panzarotto getting squashed and losing its shape.
Next, dip the panzarotto in the breadcrumbs, rolling it onto all its sides. The whole surface needs to be coated evenly.
Do the same for all panzarotti.
Prepare a large dish by lining it with kitchen paper.
In a small and deep saucepan add plenty of groundnut oil, which is the best to use for deep frying as it has the highest smoke point.
On medium heat let the oil become hot (It should not be over 180°C. I don’t use a thermometer, and if you don’t either, just add some breadcrumbs to the oil to test if the temperature is right. If the breadcrumbs come to the surface quickly surrounded by many little bubbles, then you can begin). Add one or maximum two panazarotti. Let them be for a few seconds. Then start turning them gently to cook them evenly and to let the mozzarella melt properly.
When the panazarotti are golden, use a ladle with holes to take them out. Let as much oil as possible get through the holes. Place each panzarotto on the plate lined with kitchen paper.
When ready, sprinkle some salt on top and serve warm, as a starter or canapé (if you make them smaller). They will delight everyone. After all, who doesn’t like potatoes?
If you think you are only going to eat half of them, you can freeze the others before frying. Then fry them straight from the freezer. They are absolutely amazing. It is a simple starter made with very few ingredients… but aren’t simple and unpretentious things the best?