I was reminiscing about my childhood and the times my parents would take me to eat Sicilian food. For those not in the know, there is a distinct difference between Italian food and Sicilian delicacies. Depending on what section of Brooklyn, NY we were in, we always went to one of two places. Those places were “Joe’s of Avenue U” and “Ferdinando’s Focacceria”. We would pick out a multitude of items and shared them as a family. However, there was always one dish that I could never seem to get enough of. That was the “Panelle Siciliane” or better known as a “Panelle Special”. The recipe below, details how easy it is to make this wonderful Sicilian sandwich.
You may be asking what is a panelle? Panelle is simply a fried fritter made with chickpea flour. Doesn’t sound too attractive. Right? But then there is the “Panelle Special”! This is a sandwich on a toasted semolina roll, layered with a few of the chickpea fritters. Then it is topped with homemade ricotta and Pecorino Romano cheese.
The panelle has transcended time and social classes. The panelle fritter originated back in the ninth century. However, it was not a dish that royalty or the wealthy would dare to eat. Rather, it was a street food and a dish enjoyed by the poor. One reason it was loved by those less fortunate was the inexpensive ingredients to make the fritter. You could walk the streets and purchase it from vendors that had carts lined up and down the city of Palermo. Through the years panelle became accepted and appreciated by all classes of people. From the poorest of the poor to the extremely wealthy. As most things evolve over time, so did this and eventually the “Panelle Special” was born.
Ingredients for approximately 8 fritters:
- 3 cups of water at room temperature
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Fresh ricotta cheese
- Shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
- Semolina rolls
- Pour the water into a mixing bowl.
- Slowly add the chickpea flour as you continually whisk it to avoid any lumps.
- Then pour the mixture into a pot over medium heat. Stirring regularly.
- Once the mixture become thick, remove it from the heat. Mix in the salt, pepper and parsley.
- Pour the mixture onto a large cutting board and cover with parchment paper.
- Roll it out into a large rectangle that is approximately 1/4 inch thick and let it cool for 1-2 hours.
- After it is cool and has set, remove the parchment paper and cut into rectangles.
- Heat oil in a frying pan and place the fritters in. You want them to be golden brown on both sides.
- Remove the fritters and put them on a rack or paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
- Sprinkle just a little of the lemon juice on each one.
- Slice open the Semolina roll.
- Layer approximately 2-3 fritters on the roll.
- Place a nice amount of the ricotta cheese on top of the fritter and then the Pecorino Romano cheese.
- Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted and then enjoy.