Funghi in pastella (Mushroom Fritters)

I was so very pleased to read in the paper the other day that frying need not to be bad for you, especially if you fry in olive oil. The news didn’t come as a surprise—I had always figured if Angelina managed to live to be 98 eating fried foods all the time, it couldn’t be nearly as toxic as modern-day health nuts made out. Still, it was nice to see folk wisdom, once again, confirmed by empirical evidence.

Fried foods are a mainstay of Italian cookery. There’s an old saying that “even a shoe tastes good when it’s fried”—as true a sentiment as I can imagine. In our family, one of Angelina’s signature dishes was fried mixed vegetables, usually including asparagus, cauliflower, artichokes, which appeared as an antipasto at many a Sunday dinner.

Another vegetable that lends itself wonderfully to frying is the mushroom. But given their irregular shape and small size, frying whole, individual mushrooms—while possible—is not very practical for the time-pressed home cook. In this recipe from Puglia, mushrooms are chopped and sautéed, then folded into a thick batter to be deep-fried. The resulting fritters make for a great (and addictive!) snack, an antipasto, a part of a fritto misto or even a light vegetarian second course.

Ingredients (to serve 4)

For the mushrooms:
1 lb. mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

For the batter:
1 egg
3/4 cup water
1-1/2 cups flour
Salt and pepper

A few spoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese

For deep frying:
Olive oil (or a mixture of olive and canola oils)


Sauté the mushrooms in a bit of olive oil with the garlic and parsley, and seasoning lightly with salt and pepper, as if you were making funghi trifolati. (Be sparing with the oil.) Let cool.

Beat the egg and water together, and whisk in the flour little by little until you have a homogenous batter.

Add the mushrooms to the batter. Season the batter with a bit more salt and pepper—not too much as the mushrooms are already seasoned and, if using the grated cheese. As you add ingredients, fold everything together well with a spatula until the mushroom and batter mixture is quite uniform.

Now heat abundant oil in a pan, at least one inch (3 cm) deep. When the oil is hot (but not boiling) drop spoonfuls of the mushroom batter into abundant hot oil, keeping them well spaced. Deep fry until golden brown, proceeding in batches if need be, and transferring the fritters as they are done to a tray lined with paper towels or (my preference) a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet.

Serve hot, sprinkled with some additional salt if you like.

NOTES: This recipe will work with just about any type of mushroom, but of course the more interesting the mushroom, the better the fritters will taste. A mushroom mix of the kind often sold in better supermarkets is a nice choice. The traditional recipe calls for adding raw chopped mushrooms into the batter—if you take that approach, then I’d suggest limiting yourself to tender-fleshed mushrooms like chanterelles or oysters.

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24 Responses to “Funghi in pastella (Mushroom Fritters)”

  1. 1 December 2012 at 18:43 #

    Like the idea of chopping up the mushrooms.
    And I continue to trust Angelina…

  2. 28 November 2012 at 04:43 #

    I think anything, eaten in reasonable amounts, is not too unhealthy. I certainly would never give up the pleasure of a hot, salty, crunchy morsel of fried anything! These fritters, I can almost taste them.

    • 28 November 2012 at 08:03 #

      Thanks! I agree completely—everything in moderation, as the old saying goes.

  3. 27 November 2012 at 18:18 #

    These my mom would make with tree mushrooms and we loved them brings back wonderful memories.. I love that using olive oil fried is mentioned and then she was 98, what was missing is the stress we live under on a daily basis life was simplier then oh how I miss them all!

    • 28 November 2012 at 08:03 #

      Yeah, I really envy that generation. They knew how to live well and not worry too much!

  4. 24 February 2012 at 07:23 #

    Sounds like a perfect combination… ;=)

  5. 22 February 2012 at 15:02 #

    These are sooo good. I really like them together with some Fiori di Zucca and a nice red wine…:P

  6. 9 February 2012 at 08:22 #

    It is so true – things done in moderation are best, and there ARE healthy fats out there. I say enjoy them in fried form!!

  7. 6 February 2012 at 19:56 #

    Frank, we are on the same page on the subject of frying. My mom used to make vegetable fritto misto from time to time. It was such a treat. Your mushroom frittelle sound wonderful, and are pretty to boot. Will be making these for my family (as soon as I get my left hand back ; ) Cheers, Domenica

  8. 31 January 2012 at 10:02 #

    Thanks, Sherry!

  9. 31 January 2012 at 10:01 #

    Indeed, moderation is the key. In food as much as anything else.

  10. 31 January 2012 at 10:01 #

    Exactly. I'm not a big fan of the texture of raw mushroom either. Thanks!

  11. 31 January 2012 at 10:00 #

    Italians do do wonderful things with frying. It's in the blood, I think… :=)

  12. 31 January 2012 at 09:59 #

    Thanks! I love that expression, too!

  13. 31 January 2012 at 09:58 #

    Thanks, Paola!

  14. 31 January 2012 at 09:58 #

    So true…

  15. 30 January 2012 at 18:59 #

    I just love this one and wish I had it here right now!!! You always bring it! Best from Montecito, Sherry

  16. 30 January 2012 at 17:32 #

    Angelina sure knew what she was doing. Everything in moderation and a little fried food is good for the tummy and the soul.

  17. 30 January 2012 at 10:35 #

    Oh heavenly food. I am sold on the idea of sauteing the mushrooms beforehand (and with garlic no less!). One of the problems I've always had with fried mushrooms was that the breading cooked too much by the time the mushroom was done. This is perfect, and looks delicious.

  18. 30 January 2012 at 09:52 #

    The best deep-fried seafood and vegetables I had was in Italy – so much lighter than southern-American cooking. The batter was so light – it reminded me of tempura. As it is winter in Minnesota, these just warm me up and it's a most delectable way to enjoy funghi!

  19. 29 January 2012 at 22:33 #

    looks great and love that expression :-_)

  20. 29 January 2012 at 21:31 #

    Beautiful! They look delicious! I'm never frying anything but this kind of recipe makes me change my mind…

  21. 29 January 2012 at 20:15 #

    My family loves fried anything…from chicken, fish, and vegetables. And why not, frying makes everything taste better.

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