How to make pasta suppli, aka fried cheesy spaghetti balls.

Stacey Ballis
Updated: April 03, 2019
Stacey Ballis

There is a spirit of generosity that has always drawn me to Italian cuisine. The idea that abundance is the order of the day, that it is better to have too much than too little. They have an approach to food that is exuberant and celebratory. I remember my first trip to Italy and discovering that pasta was its own separate course, to be enjoyed before your entrée, and my whole world turned upside down. The deep pleasure of not having to choose either garganelli with peas or veal piccata, but instead to be able, nay, to be expected to enjoy both—that was a food philosophy I could get behind.

This attitude about dining shapes their approach to leftovers. For many of us, leftovers are simply a reheated repeat of the meal before. Not so for the Italians. Whether it is turning leftover cooked vegetables into a savory frittata or dropping the rinds of parmesan into soups and stews to impart extra flavor, it seems like Italian cooks look at anything leftover as an opportunity for scaling new culinary heights.

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In my world, leftover risotto was just that, reheated, never as perfect as it was the night previous, but still a delicious lunch. But Italian cooks look at leftover risotto and they see arancini, those delicious balls of rice in a thin breadcrumb coating, pan fried to crispy perfection, transformed into something special. So special, in fact, that I started making it a habit to always make more risotto than needed for dinner just so that I could make arancini with the leftovers.

Then I was introduced to suppli, which is essentially similar to arancini, except stuffed, usually with a chunk of melty cheese, a larger more street-food take on the fried rice ball that is totally craveworthy.

Stacey Ballis

Get the recipe: Pasta Suppli

And so it is with this pasta-based version. Because when staring down the barrel at a bowl of last night’s spaghetti with one last meatball, the part of my brain that thinks Italian doesn’t see a lunch to eat over the sink. I see a version of those suppli, a little ball of pasta wrapped around a chunk of meatball, breaded and fried to crispy deliciousness. Apparently, I am not the only person to have this brilliant idea: they serve them at Bonci, the famous Roman pizza chain. This validates my belief that it was an impulse rooted in the Italian spirit and not some horrible American bastardization.

Stacey Ballis

The process is a little fussy, but it’s not hard. You take your leftover long pasta in its sauce, cut it up a bit so that the strands aren’t too hard to manage, add a beaten egg and some grated cheese and seasonings, make little ovals, stuff a cube of cheese or meatball inside if you have either lying about, bread and pan fry. I like to make them on the larger side and eat out of hand wrapped in a napkin like a sandwich, but you can make smaller ones as a fun two-bite party appetizer. Works with most sauced pastas, from marinara to carbonara to pesto. You’ll just have to adjust your technique a little bit based on how saucy your pasta is, and how well it sticks together.

The recipe below is more of a guideline, as your pasta will differ from mine, so trust your gut a bit. At the end of the day, even an imperfect fried ball of pasta is still pretty delicious.

Get the recipe: Pasta Suppli