Cazzili are Sicilian potato croquettes. It is a popular street food in Palermo, where the dish originated. The name of the dish – cazzilli – refers to a masculine body part they resemble. I’ll leave it up your imagination to guess which that is. I’ve got to keep it clean here! One thing’s for certain, Sicilians are not repressive about naming foods after body parts they resemble. Minni di Virgine (virgin’s breast) – a cream-filled pastry– is made to resemble a woman’s breast that wouldn’t be complete without a cherry on top for a nipple. You don’t need to take a trip to Palermo to savor cazzili because these croquettes are really easy to make at home.
These savory morsels are made of cold mashed potatoes seasoned with grated cheese, parsley, and bits of pancetta. I emphasize cold here because the potatoes must be cold to hold their shape. I add fried pancetta for extra flavor, it’s similar to bacon. You must also use mealy potatoes such as Russet. No other potato will do because they have the best texture or, you’ll end up with fried mash potatoes. These tips will keep you on the road to success.
For some added crunch you can coat the croquettes in bread crumbs but it’s not necessary.
SICILIAN POTATO CROQUETTES WITH PANCETTA
(Cazzili cú Pancetta/ Crocchè di Patate è Pancetta)
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes approximately 20 croquettes.
2 pounds Russet potatoes (2 large)
1/2 cup diced pancetta
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoon finely minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
Salt and ground black pepper.
Flour for dredging
Light olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
Special Equipment: Potato ricer or food mill.
COOK THE PANCETTA: Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook for 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
COOK POTATOES: Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and cook potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes in a colander and allow to cool to room temperature. Potatoes should be cool.
MAKE THE CROQUETTES: Peel potatoes and cut each one into several pieces, size doesn’t matter.
Put the potatoes through a ricer or food mill and into a large bowl.
Add pancetta, cheese, egg, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Knead the mixture for 2 minutes, until well combined and mixture comes together in a ball.
Pour oil in a deep frying pan to a depth of 1 1/2-inches. Heat to 350 degrees F.
For this next step, I use an ice cream scoop to make the croquettes more uniform in size but you can use a large spoon. Place a level scoop of potato mixture in your hand and shape into long sub-marine like shapes.
Dredge in flour and place on a platter. Repeat with remaining mixture.
FRY THE CROQUETTES: Fry several croquettes at a time, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.
Variation: After dredging croquettes in flour, you can a roll the croquettes in beaten egg and coat with fine dry breadcrumbs and proceed with frying.