Frittering Around With Italian Cheeses

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - May 13, 2009
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Ed Wary with his popular cheese fritters

Auntie Pasto’s owner Ed Wary grew up in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts in an Italian-American home where his mother presided over generations’ worth of recipes. Known in the family as “Nana,” this feisty cook instilled in her kitchen-loving son a conviction that “Where would Italian food be without cheese?” He thus not only has developed his own list of creations, but he also has started teaching employees in his South Beretania Street restaurant how to make cheese.

Tapping into lower-fat varieties, Auntie Pasto’s presents its Cheesefest now through the end of May. It also presents some “splurge” dishes that are ideal for family enjoyment, ranging from entrees such as whole wheat pasta with myzithra cheese, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes; homemade fettuccine in a creamy gorgonzola sauce with peas and tomatoes; homemade ricotta dumplings with turkey sausage, tomato, extra-virgin olive oil and Parmesano Reggiano; lamb shanks with oranges, olives and feta cheese; and Italian flag chicken, cheese-stuffed with oven-roasted tomatoes alongside angel hair pasta.

One of the most-popular appetizers during Cheesefest will be the fritters, predicts Wary, and he has most graciously given me this recipe for MidWeek readers to try at home.


If you want to lower fat content, use low-fat or fat-free ricotta cheese, and lower-fat mozzarella and provolone.

Ricotta cheese is most commonly made from the whey of sheep, goat or cow’s milk; whey is the liquid separated out from the curds when cheese is made. Ricotta is a creamy and light white cheese that is fresh rather than aged, has a low fat content of about 6 percent and is low-sodium, so it is ideal for lower-fat recipes.

Favorite recipes made with ricotta include lasagna, stuffed shells, calzones and ravioli, and desserts such as ricotta cheesecake, a lighter version of traditional cream cheesecake, and cannoli. This cheese can be beaten until smooth and sugar, spices, chocolate and nuts can be added for a refreshing dessert.

AUNTIE PASTO’S CHEESE FRITTERS

* 3 cups grated mozzarella and provolone

* 2 cups ricotta

* 3 eggs

* 2 cups bread crumbs or panko

* 1/2 cup water

* fresh ground pepper

* oil, for frying

* Parmesan and parsley, to garnish

* tomato sauce

* 2 cups balsamic vinegar


Mix cheeses together in large bowl, seasoning with a little pepper. Form 1.5-ounce balls, a bit smaller than a golf ball. Coat cheese balls in flour-egg wash and then panko or bread crumbs. Be thorough when coating. If you leave any spots not covered well with the flour, egg and panko, the cheese will bubble out as it fries - about 1.5 minutes or until nice and brown. Remove from fryer and drain well.

To serve, spread a layer of tomato sauce (about 1 ounce) in a line about 1.5 inches wide on one half of a medium-size oval plate. Put five fritters on top of the tomato sauce. This adds color and helps prevent rolling. Garnish with grated Parmesan and parsley. On the other half of the plate, put a small ramekin of balsamic dipping sauce, made by reducing balsamic vinegar to half. Serve immediately.

Makes four dozen.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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