It’s pitticelle season! What’s that you ask? The word pitticelle is Calabrese dialect for the formal Italian frittelle. Either way, the best translation for pitticelle or frittelle is probably “fritter.” These pan-fried snacks seem to flourish in the summer for Italian families for, I think, two reasons: they are great for picnics and family gatherings and many feature fresh garden ingredients. My favourite pitticelle are Pitticelle di Cucuzzi (that’s Calabrese for Frittelle di Zucchine) which means Zucchini Fritters. The recipe for those is coming as soon as I have from fresh zucchini from the garden. A close second favourite is Pitticelle di Riso (Rice Fritters), made with arborio rice, the recipe for which I also hope to share soon.
Today’s pitticelle di pane recipe is relatively new to me, taught to me by my husband as they were a tradition in his family. If you thought the pitticelle/frittelle/fritter naming couldn’t get any more complicated, well you’re wrong. His family calls these types of snacks “pittiduci” in their dialect (I’m guessing a little on the spelling here). I was told that if I was going to put this recipe up on this blog, I had to call them pittiduci but instead I’m giving you all the names, the whole story. You decide what you want to call them. Even “crispy fried things” will do the trick, as long as they taste good!
These pitticelle/pittiduci/frittelle/fritter gems (whew, it’s getting long!) are made with the leftover seasoned breadcrumbs and egg wash used when making fettini which are breaded veal or chicken cutlets (Recipe for Fettini). This is another classic example of Italians not letting anything go to waste. Why throw out the breadcrumbs when you could make something out of them? These are the ultimate finger foods, quickly eaten up by visitors to the kitchen who wonder aloud “when is dinner going to be ready?” all the while trying to swipe a pitticelle as a pre-dinner snack. Often, by the time dinner is served, these crisp little guys are all gone.
Pitticelle di Pane (or Pittiduci di Pane or Frittelle di Pane)
leftover seasoned breadcrumbs (from breading chicken or veal)
leftover egg wash (from breading chicken or veal)
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
fresh chopped Italian parsley
vegetable oil for frying
Once you have breaded your veal or chicken and are pan frying them, it’s time to turn your attention to the leftovers.
Mix the cheese into the leftover seasoned breadcrumbs as well as some chopped fresh Italian parsley. Stir in the leftover egg wash (simply scrambled raw eggs with a bit of water). Add milk to the mixture until it has a thick paste-like consistency. Depending on the amount of seasoned breadcrumbs you have left over, or egg wash, you’ll need to determine how much of each of the additional ingredients are needed to reach this consistency. Sometimes you’ll need more milk, other times you may want to add even more breadcrumbs if you find the batter too loose. Grab a tablespoon for scooping the batter and set both aside.
If you were already frying veal or chicken, and the oil in the pan does not have too much debris or froth, you can fry your pitticelle in the same oil. However, if the oil has a lot of crumbs in it, remove the old oil, wipe the pan with a paper towel and pour in fresh vegetable oil, about 1/4 of an inch deep and set your element on a medium heat.
You are ready to fry when the oil is hot (you can put a small drop of the batter in to ensure it starts frying immediately). If you put the batter in when the oil is still cool, the breadcrumbs will absorb too much oil, making your pitticelle soggy. Oil that is too hot burns them immediately, so keep an eye on your frying pan and your heat setting. Place a heaping tablespoon of the batter into the frying pan and spread it out with the back of your spoon, to about a 1/4 inch thickness.
Repeat with 2 to 3 more pitticelle in the pan. Fry for one to two minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. Flip with a fork or spatula to brown the other side and to ensure the pitticelle batter is cooked through the center.
Remove to a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
Serve hot as a side dish to your meal (if they ever even make it to the table).