Panelle are Sicilian fritters. From such humble ingredients, you’ll find its deliciousness amazing. Panelle is part of cucina povera or poor man’s kitchen, alluding to the inexpensive nature of the ingredients. The main ingredient in panelle is chickpea flour. Find it in the organic or health food section of your grocery store.
Panelle hails from southern Italy, mainly Palermo where according to our friend Tony-a Sicilian, street vendors do brisk business selling panelle. Sometimes, it’s a sandwich. I enjoy it with arugula salad drizzled with balsamic and topped with pieces of Parmigianno Regiano. Add a nice glass of Chianti and it’s a perfect meal.
All things in balance
Our friend Tony shared his panelle recipe. We are eternally grateful. Panelle is deep-fried so it’s not what you would call “health food.” But my philosophy is to enjoy all things in moderation. The perfect panelle is sliced thin and has a nice crunch and a soft interior.
As far as the origins, I was not able to find much. It’s believed that panelle was introduced by the Arabs, who dominated the area between the 9th and the 11th century. In a previous post I mentioned that garbanzo beans (chickpeas) originated in the Middle East. In Sicily people enjoy panelle with a squeeze of lemon, another Arab import. You can also add extra wow to this chickpea flour recipe by topping it with fresh herbs such as parsley.
More recipes with chickpea flour are coming
Making panelle is not time consuming or difficult. Some chefs in big cities are even experimenting with chickpea “French fries” more to come on that one once I learn the process.
If you want to explore some other Italian dishes here are a few of my favorites that are a little less commonplace and so good! Frico is a rustic dish made with potato, onion and lots of Parmesan cheese. These simple ingredients come together in one fabulous dish. Blueberry crostata easy recipe that is great to make during berry season! The dough comes together quickly and this can be ready for a picnic or gathering fast. If you want a little spicy and savory flavor try this orecchiette with shrimp, fennel and arugula.
Panelle - Sicilian Fried Chickpea Fritters
Panelle is a popular street food in Palermo Sicily made with chickpea flour and fried like a fritter. These are often served simply wrapped in paper or between sliced bread or a roll like a sandwich. When I make them at home I like to top mine with a some Parmesan cheese.
- Lightly grease one 9" loaf pan.
- Mix chickpea flour, and pepper.
- Place a 2 qt.sauce pan over medium heat and add the salt. When the water starts to get warm, slowly add the chickpea flour, stirring constantly and scraping the sides. Continue to do this until all the flour has been incorporated into the water.
- Place the dough into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a knife by running it across the top of the dough( lengthwise).
- Refrigerate until cool (about 2 hours).
- Remove from fridge and invert onto a cutting board. With a chef's knife slowly cut the panelle dough into thin (1/4") slices.
- Fry in hot oil for about 2 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmigiano Regiano and chopped parsley (if desired).