I’m on a quest to recreate the delightful amuse that was sent out to us when we dined in Bevagna in Umbria. We were directed to a restaurant in the center of the medieval town and when we entered, it was evident that we were the only tourists dining there. I really like that, despite knowing that there might be some difficulty in deciphering everything on the menu (although with all the Italian I’ve been studying, this isn’t as difficult as it used to be). You immediately feel reassured that you will be served a meal with authentic food of the region, not something that had been altered to suit American or German or English tastes.
This delightful starter was a savory ricotta fritter with bits of prosciutto. It was crispy on the outside and wonderfully creamy and a little salty on the inside. I’ve perused most of my Italian cookbooks and although I’ve found a variety that of sweet fritters, the only one that was savory came from Jamie Oliver. His fritters didn’t really look like what we had eaten, but I decided to give them a try anyway. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone and had to alter the recipe a little. All along I was a little concerned about frying ricotta. How was it going to stay together? The batter didn’t seem stiff enough to hold a shape. In the end I rolled the ricotta in bread crumbs and deep fried, where as Jamie’s recipe called for frying in a little oil in a skillet, not deep frying.
My rendition was tasty, but not exactly what I was looking for. They were quite fragile and flatter than I had hoped for. We ate all of them, which is always a good sign, but I’m still following the quest for that taste from Umbria. I’ve decided that I will probably start with a recipe for a sweet ricotta fritter and alter it to make it savory.
About that night in Bevagna-our meal was delicious, in fact for me it was one of the best of my entire time in Italy. Our server was more than willing to help us with the menu and was appreciative that I was trying to handle our encounter in Italian. When we left the restaurant it was pouring and we asked directions (hoping for a short cut) from young Italians who were standing outside to smoke. They also were happy to help us, however we ended up getting so lost in the dark medieval streets, going round and round in our search for the car. I had visions of never locating our rental and it wasn’t until we found ourselves right back in front of the restaurant, that I stopped worrying and we had a good laugh! Yes, we found the car, went back to the inn with full stomachs and I’m still dreaming about that fritter.
1 pound good crumbly ricotta
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large egg
Mix the ricotta with the Parmesan, flour, a good pinch of salt and the egg. Season with a little pepper and place in the fridge for about a half hour. Put a nonstick pan over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Drop a few spoonfuls of ricotta in to the pan, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry the ricotta cakes for a few minutes until golden brown, then carefully turn them over and fry for about another minute. Serve immediately with a light sprinkling of salt.