Coccoli

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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
120g prosciutto
400g stracchino (or buffalo mozzarella)
Olive oil, to serve
Coarse sea salt

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, to serve six.

Method

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).

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