I’ve been through a fair few recipes in my quest to recreate the coccoli at the simple, cheap yet brilliant I’ Brindellone trattoria in Florence. The best – quite different, in truth, but almost as delicious – I’ve found so far is in Chiara Lima’s Mamma Agata cookbook. Coccoli is traditionally served with cured ham and stracchino, a mild, creamy cow’s cheese, but buffalo mozzarella works, too.
Makes 30 balls, serves 6
250g ‘00’ flour
15g caster sugar
100g parmesan, coarsely grated
1 egg, beaten
4 tsp (20g) dried active yeast
5g sage leaves, finely chopped
600ml sunflower oil, for frying
400g stracchino (or buffalo mozzarella)
Olive oil, to serve
Coarse sea salt
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and parmesan. Add the egg and use your hands to mix until well combined: the texture should be similar to breadcrumbs.
- Put the yeast in a small bowl with 250ml lukewarm water. Pour this on to the flour mix and, again using your hands, stir gently to incorporate: take care you don’t over-mix. Cover with cling-film and leave in a warm, draught-free place for an hour until doubled in size. Add the sage and half a teaspoon of salt and incorporate very, very gently: the mix will deflate a bit, but that’s OK.
- Heat the oil in a 20cm-wide saucepan. To test it’s hot enough, drop in a tiny ball of dough: if it bubbles and rises straight to the surface, get frying. Using two dessertspoons, shape the mix into walnut-sized balls and deep-fry for two minutes, until doubled in size and golden-brown all over. To avoid overcrowding the pan, fry in batches of eight. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked coccoli from the pan to a plate lined with kitchen paper, sprinkle with sea salt and keep warm while you repeat with the rest of the dough. Serve the hot coccoli on a platter or board with ham and cheese alongside (drizzle oil on the cheese, if you like).