Panelle {Savory Sicilian Chickpea Fritters}

Panelle Sicilian Chickpea Fritter Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

I found myself across from Ferdinando’s Focacceria a few nights ago, also known as The Panelle Place for those who grew up in Carroll Gardens. I don’t know why I felt the pull to be back in my old neighborhood on August 7th, but I knew I had to listen to it.

The girls were understandably hesitant at first, and much as I wanted to put their needs first, getting through the day meant I needed to make sure my own were equally important. It takes a strong captain to lead any ship, and the isolation I often feel living upstate was something I wanted to take a break from on an already complicated day.

So we packed overnight bags, pillows for me and Isabella (Virginia eventually wished she had followed our lead, too), and made our way to the comfort of my best friend’s apartment. The highlight of our day was two-fold, and one I’m still pondering in my journal. The words aren’t there to share yet, but as I pulled the car into a parking spot on Union Street to grab a few slices of pizza for the trip back home the next day, the darkened windows of Ferdinando’s at 8:30pm, already closed for the day, reminded me I’ve been wanting to share a recipe for one of my favorite dishes from there, panelle.

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Panelle Sicilian Chickpea Fritter Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

It’s so easy to take the cultural food of our youth for granted before we set out into the world, and realize it might not be widely available. The only other place I’d ever seen panelle, fried Sicilian chickpea cakes was on the menu at I Trulli (sadly, it’s not on the menu right now). They were good in their own right, and a welcome surprise, though the round discs were different from the paper-thin rectangles served at Ferdinando’s.

Why did it take me all these years to finally make them at home? That’s a question I can’t answer, but rest assured I’ve been making up for lost time since setting out to make them a few weeks ago. It took one try to figure out the right ratio of chickpea flour to water. Yes, that’s really all you need, so they’re vegan, too, if that matters to you.

Panelle Sicilian Chickpea Fritter Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

It’s curious how the ratio varies in recipes I researched online. I’m sure the brand of chickpea flour, and humidity level in specific climates affect some of that. I used Bob’s Red Mill, and the weather here has been a blanket of hot, sticky air for weeks, so keep that in mind when making the batter. You might need more or less water, to allow for these variables.

How you cut the shapes is really up to you. I came across many photos online that were triangles, assuming the batter was put into a round tin to cool and set, then cut into wedges.

One last note: you can make these mostly in advance. See my note at the end of the recipe. I’m so glad I gave flash freezing a try here because it means I’m one step closer to homemade panelle, and a taste of the old neighborhood on any given day.

Panelle Sicilian Chickpea Fritter Recipe | In Jennie's Kitchen

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Panelle {Savory Sicilian Chickpea Fritters}

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 16 to 20

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups (600 ml) water
  • 1 ½ cups (180 grams) chickpea flour
  • Thick pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley, optional
  • Grapeseed or sunflower oil, for frying

Instructions

  1. With a little oil, grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch by 13-inch rimmed sheet pan.
  2. Combine the water, flour, salt, and pepper in a medium pot. Whisk together until smooth, and there are no lumps. Place over medium-low heat, and cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens up like polenta, about 10 minutes.
  3. Spread the panelle “batter” into the prepared pan, and use an oiled rubber spatula to smooth into an even thin layer. Let cool at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. Once cooled and firm, cut into desired shape. My preferred is either 3-inch (TK-cm) squares, or 2-inch by 3-unch rectangles.
  5. Add ½ inch of oil to a shallow skillet. Heat until shimmering. Add a few of the panelle, and cook until golden underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip, and cook until golden on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. This needs to be done in batches to avoid crowding the pan, so they brown nicely.
  6. Serve hot with marinara sauce, or as we grew up eating them in Brooklyn, tucked between a roll with ricotta cheese and grated pecorino.
  7. Make Ahead Tip: Once cooled and cut, the panelle can be frozen until ready to fry and eat. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Arrange the panelle pieces in a single layer. Freeze until firm, then transfer to a ziptop bag. Fry panelle according to directions above directly from the freezer, no need to thaw in advance.

2 Comments

  • Pam prisco

    Can’t thank you enough, my husband was born on Sackett st. Not being Italian I never had a clue how to make these or the amazing rice balls from fernandos…small world…big hearts

  • Saundra Sillaway

    There is that pull to go home that tugs at your heart. Born and raised in ethnic ny I have spent the balance of my life in the sw. I have gone back ,but except for a few monuments , the only bond is the one in my memory. We celebrate with food. I do remember .. buying home made Matzoh sheets in Brooklyn, roasted lamb heads on Christopher street, hot dogs with onions in Herald Square.There was a diner in Chelsea that served tripe ( Calabrian style ) every Wednesday.At Christmas time there were chestnut vendors who also sold Hot Nicks, They were roasted sweet potatoes on a stick. In the summer we ate Italian ices and strawberry shortcakes in ruffled boxes. Jones beach vendors hyped Mallomars ice cream shaped like a cylinder and came wrapped in paper. Ennui.

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