One of my favorite antipasti to order here is the Fritto Misto alla Napoletana. Piping hot out of the fryer, I’m rarely disappointed by the heaping plate-full of Neapolitan fried delights that is set before me.
Sometimes an order can cost as much as a meal, but until I spent two days making them with Giuseppe, I didn’t appreciate the time, patience and of course love that is put into each bite.
Arriving at the table in a variety of shapes and sizes, what is hidden inside of each bite-sized morsel, and I use that term loosely, is known only to those in the know. Each restaurant has their own specialties, but generally you will find golden brown fried rice balls – the Arancini. The torpedo shaped Crocchè di Patate and triangular “carriages,” the Mozzarella in Carrozza. Fried spears or rounds of zucchini and eggplant and of course, a few Pizzette Fritte.
Topping it all off, misshapen blobs of Pasta Cresciuta, plain, di Alghe, di Fiori di Zucca, or some other delight. Simple to make, though harder to work with, Pasta Cresciuta is a thick batter or semi-liquid dough known as Pastètta. The Neapolitan for pastella or pastella per frittura, which simply means batter for frying. Made with just four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast, once immersed in hot oil, it grows and expands, giving way to its name Pasta Cresciuta, from the Italian crescere, to grow.
Pastètta finds use in both savory and sweet applications and a variety of ingredients such as anchovies or seaweed may be added to the batter as the cook sees fit. It can also be used to batter vegetables, meats or fish and of course, it can be served plain, right out of the fryer topped with just a bit of salt or sugar. You might know the sugar topped version as Zeppole, and in fact, Zeppole can be used to describe any type of Pasta Cresciuta, but the Neapolitan version of sweet Zeppole or more precisely, Zeppole di San Giuseppe is a horse of another color.
1 Kilo Flour
1 Cake (.6 oz) fresh yeast or one package or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
Salt and Pepper
About 25 Zucchini Flowers
Pour the flour into a large bowl and add salt and pepper and the yeast
If you are using active dry yeast you will need to dissolve it in about 1/2 cup warm water first
Add warm water, a little bit at a time while mixing the dough with your hands until the dough is semi-liquid, soft and malleable
Let the dough rise for 45 minutes to an hour
Heat about 3 inches of frying oil in a large pan
Using a spoon or your fingers, coat the zucchini flowers one at a time with the batter and immediately put into the hot oil
Wetting your fingers or the spoon with cold water now and then will make it easier to work with the dough
Cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once and spooning hot oil over the top, once or twice on each side
Remove to paper towels to drain
Drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter into the hot oil and cook until golden brown
Top with salt or sugar and serve immediately