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Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers (Fiori di Zucca Fritti)

One of the pleasures of summer in Rome is being able to eat fried stuffed zucchini flowers—the cheese and anchovies ooze out of the thin, crisp fiori. At home, you can serve them in batches just as they come out of the pan, so they don't get soggy. Use the blossoms as soon as possible after picking, as they will wilt within a day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cold sparkling mineral water
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus more for deep-frying
  • 2 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 10 anchovy fillets, cut in half crosswise
  • 20 large squash blossoms

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the flour and the 1 tsp. salt. Add the eggs, mineral water and the 1 Tbs. vegetable oil and whisk just until blended. Cut the mozzarella into sticks 1 inch long by 1/4 inch wide by 1/4 inch thick. Pat the anchovies dry with paper towels.

In a heavy fry pan or sauté pan at least 3 inches deep, pour in oil to a depth of 1 inch and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer or until a bit of the batter sizzles when dropped into the oil. Alternatively, pour oil into an electric deep fryer and heat according to the manufacturer's instructions to 375ºF.

While the oil is heating, gently spread open the petals of each flower and carefully pinch out the filaments inside. Insert a piece of the cheese and an anchovy half into each flower and press the petals closed.

One at a time, dip the flowers into the batter, turning to coat completely. Lift out and let the excess drip off. Working with a few at a time, slip the battered flowers into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the blossoms to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Serve immediately, then fry the remaining flowers. Makes 20.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).