Supplì: the Roman king of fried food

The supplì is undoubtedly one of the most famous appetizers of Roman cuisine. A simple finger food that can be eaten on the roads of Rome, walking through the streets of the Eternal City and enjoying all the taste of stringy mozzarella and rice.

The king of fried food is excellent both as an appetizer and alone, simple and tasty: rice with meat sauce, mozzarella, breadcrumbs and eggs. It is a dish loved by adults and children that can be enjoyed before a dinner of any kind, from pizza to pasta. Together with cacio e pepe and amatriciana it is certainly one of the most famous dishes in Rome.

But what are its origins? Let’s try to discover them together

Supplì: a bit of history

The word supplì derives from the French word “surprise“, a surprise, which clearly refers to the stringy mozzarella which is hidden inside the rice and which is revealed only after the first bite. Thus the term “surprise” has gradually become “surprisa“, then “supprisa“, again “supprì” and finally “supplì“.

The first supplì were sold on the street, still hot and fried at the time in a large pot, during city fairs, parties and special events.

Around 1800 they were served in restaurants and inns of the capital. It was in fact in 1870 that the supplì was inserted inside a Roman menu, at the Trattoria della Lepre in Via Condotti: “soplis de riso“.

Among the historical testimonies, James Joyce, in an interview in 1927, recounting his stay in Rome, refers to the “supplittaro“, supplì maker, who passed through the streets of Rome with his large steaming cauldron of oil.

In 1929 Ada Boni included the recipe in her cookbookLa cucina Romana” (Roman cuisine).

One of the most famous names of this fried Roman and Latium tradition is “supplì al telefono”, that literally means “supplì at phone”: this terminology derives from the fact that by opening the freshly made hot supplì in two, the stringy mozzarella created a “thread” between the two parts making it look like a phone.

Supplì or arancino?

Certainly the supplì is a typical Roman fried food, as I have already said, but in Sicily it has a far more famous cousin, the arancino. Although they may resemble each other, they are two dishes that have substantial differences. The Roman supplì has the shape of an elongated meatball and is made exclusively with rice with meat sauce and the heart of mozzarella. The Sicilian arancino instead has various forms and fillings.

Even the breading is different: the rice balls are dipped in the egg to hold the breadcrumbs before frying; for the arancino instead the batter is used.

In the original recipe of the supplì, chicken giblets were inserted, now replaced by the more common minced meat used for the normal ragù, meat sauce: it gives the supplì a more delicate taste.

In recent years some Roman pizzerias and chip shops have begun to offer combinations of different flavors, always typical of Roman cuisine. Then you can find the supplì with cacio e pepe up to the amatriciana.

Supplì: the recipe


200 grams of rice (preferably superfine for risotto)

150 grams of tomato sauce

80 grams of minced meat

1/2 glass of wine


black pepper

1 mozzarella

Bread crumbs

Frying oil

Vegetable broth / hot water

2 eggs

Preparing time 15 min

Cooking time 50 min

Serves 6


First of all prepare the meat sauce with minced meat, red wine and tomato sauce. Prepare the risotto by cooking the rice directly in the ragù and lengthened with vegetable stock or hot water.

Allow all the cooking liquid to be withdrawn (or drain it if it cannot withdraw properly) before transferring the rice into a large bowl and allow it to cool thoroughly after adjusting it with salt and black pepper (for this it should be prepared in advance).

Beat the eggs and cut the mozzarella into strips or diced.

Take a handful of rice with greasy hands and place a little bit of mozzarella in the center, closing so as to give an oval shape to the rice balls.

Pass each supplì first in the egg then in the breadcrumbs, being careful not to break it.

Heat the oil very well and cook the supplì until they are golden enough on the outside. Finally drain and serve hot.

Enjoy your supplì!

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