Almost as famous as Neapolitan pizza are Neapolitan Fritti – bite sized fried delights that are made in most every kitchen in Napoli, served as antipasti in most pizzerias and restaurants and a favorite street food sold by the friggitorie. Often a quick snack or lunch on the go, one might equate them to fast food. A Neapolitan however would not. Making fritti requires time, skill, and patience.
Think Naples famous arancini, deep-fried balls of rice that emerge from vats of sizzling oil looking like tiny oranges and tasting like a slice of heaven. Or the torpedo shaped crocchè di patate, a Neapolitan potato puree rolled in egg and flour and deep-fried until the potatoes and cheese melt in your mouth. And of course there are the Neapolitan mainstays, pasta cresciuta, blobs of deep-fried yeast dough seasoned with salt and usually mixed with seaweed; triangles of Mozzarella in Carrozza; or any of a number of battered vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini strips, or zucchini flowers – fiori di zucca fritti.
But the mother of all Neapolitan fried delectables has to be the pizzette fritte or pizzelle fritte as they are often called. Deep fried pieces of pizza dough topped with a simple tomato, oil and basil sugo and a sprinkling of mozzarella or grated Parmigiano cheese. Add some fresh basil on top and you have the colors of the Italian flag.
The earliest versions of pizzette fritte were probably served plain right out of the fryer, no sauce, no cheese. Food for some of Naples poorest residents like those who lived in the historic Bassi, tiny ground-level, one-room, windowless dwellings with little more than an entrance door for light and ventilation. Food was scarce and money even scarcer.
I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.
Pizzette fritte have been perpetually linked to a Neapolitan saying that is very similar to the famous words uttered by Popeye’s chubby friend Wimpy. Perhaps he would pay, more likely he wouldn’t, but either way Wimpy would eat today.
A ogge a otte
A popular Neapolitan expression still used today it means ″la mangio oggi e la pago tra otto giorni″ or, ″I’ll eat it today and pay for it in eight days.″ In the Bassi the expression more likely meant that ″I don’t know how I’ll pay in eight days, but for the moment my hunger problem is resolved.″
Since those meager times, pizzette fritte have become an art form and a staple for home cooks and chefs alike. Add a filling to the dough, a bit of ricotta, salame, mozzarella, some sauce, or what ever else your heart desires and they become another Neapolitan favorite, pizzette fritte ripiene, filled pizzette fritte.
For the Dough
1 kg flour
1 Cake (.6 oz) fresh yeast or one package or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
Salt and Pepper
For the Sauce
1 Can Peeled Tomatoes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Filling
We chose a very simple filling of 300 grams Ricotta and 250 grams diced Salame Napoletane
Prepare the dough
Pour flour onto a work surface into a big mound
Add sugar, salt, pepper and yeast
If you are using active dry yeast you will need to dissolve it in about 1/2 cup warm water first
Add water a little bit at a time, working it in until a soft dough begins to form
Once the dough comes together, knead the dough until it is soft and very elastic
Let rise until it doubles in size, about one hour
Prepare the sauce
Generously coat the bottom of a small saucepan with olive oil
Heat over medium high heat until the oil just starts to sizzle
Pour in the tomatoes, add some fresh basil and stir through
Turn the heat down to medium and cover and cook about twenty minutes or until the sauce reduces by about half, stirring occasionally to break up the tomatoes
Prepare the Pizzette Fritte Ripiene and Pizzette Fritte
Divide the dough into two portions, one for the ripiene and one for pizzette
Roll the ripiene portion out on a floured work surface
Leaving enough room to fold the dough up over the ripiene, put a tablespoon of ricotta and a sprinkling of salame on top
Slightly stretch the dough up over the filling and press the edges with your fingers
Use a round cutter to create crescent shapes – Giuseppe’s preferred cutter – a water-glass
Position the cutter so that the part of the cutter that is towards the fold is not covering the dough
For the pizzette fritte, cut off pieces of dough and flatten them into whatever size and shape you like. Giuseppe made large, irregular shaped pizzette but you can just as easily roll the dough out and use a cutter to make small round discs.
Heat frying oil in an electric fryer or large sauce pan to at least 190°C
Fry a few ripiene or pizzette at a time until they are golden brown
Top the pizzette fritte with a bit of sauce and a sprinkling of Parmigiano cheese.
A native Neapolitan, Giuseppe Topo is a hairstylist and one of the owners of Noi, Naples only English-speaking salon. A passionate cook, when he’s not styling hair Giuseppe can be found in the kitchen cooking up one of his favorite Neapolitan dishes.
Find all of his great recipes at Cooking with Giuseppe!