Tuna fritters: A taste of the Caribbean, with an Italian twist

Tuna and Ricotta Fritters
Tuna and Ricotta Fritters
Photo by Kate Previte
| Saturday, March 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

This month, my family and I traveled to one of our favorite island escapes: the sweet little paradise known as St. John. The water sparkles and the sand warms your toes while the cocktails warm your stomach.

Better yet is the fresh catch of the day. Tuna, grouper and lobster are just a few varieties of local seafood abundant in the British Virgin Islands. In the spirit of the Caribbean — and of the Batali clan's happy place — I'm frying up some fish with an Italian twist: Tuna and Ricotta Fritters.

This recipe is great for the kitchen novice, because it involves the most basic technique in cooking. The rule for breading before frying is an essential one I use time and time again. “The Chew” viewers have heard me refer to it as “FEB” (meaning flour, egg, bread crumbs). Simply dredge in that order, then hit the heat.

Place flour in a shallow bowl, lightly beat egg whites in another bowl, and, finally, put the bread crumbs in a third bowl. In this case, I add parsley to my bread crumbs, but regardless of the added ingredient, the order in which to dredge remains tried-and-true.

Working in batches, dredge the tuna balls in the flour, then dip in the egg whites, letting the excess run off, and dredge in the bread crumbs. It's as simple as FEB!

I'm not the biggest advocate of combining seafood and fruit, with the exception of an acidic citrus. So, when I serve these fritters as more than just an antipasto, I accompany them with a fresh beet or tomato salad served raw with a simple dressing. Make my Tuna and Ricotta Fritters in the middle of this harsh winter, and you'll be transported to warm-weather bliss. A hint of Bob Marley on the side is highly recommended.

Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 24 restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo.

Polpette di Tonno e Ricotta (Tuna and Ricotta Fritters)

After you have fried these and they have cooled, you could reheat them in a light, simple tomato sauce and serve them with a little spaghetti — kind of like a tuna meatball.

Water, for boiling


2 pounds russet potatoes

2 cans (6 to 7 ounces each) Italian tuna packed in olive oil

1 cup fresh ricotta, drained for an hour in a sieve lined with cheesecloth

1 bunch marjoram, leaves only

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 large eggs, separated

3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, for deep-frying

1 cup flour

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1 tablespoon lemon zest

In a large pot, bring 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are easily pierced with the point of a paring knife, for about 25 minutes; drain.

Peel the potatoes and, while they are still warm, pass them through a food mill into a large bowl. Immediately add the tuna, ricotta, marjoram and salt and pepper to taste. Add the egg yolks and mix well to combine.

Using tablespoons, or your moistened hands, form the mixture into golf-ball-size balls and set them on a baking sheet.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 370 degrees. Meanwhile, place the flour in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat the egg whites in another bowl. Mix the bread crumbs and parsley in a third bowl. Working in batches, dredge the tuna balls in the flour, then dip them in the egg whites, letting the excess run off, and dredge in the bread crumbs.

Carefully drop the balls into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, for about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Sprinkle the fritters with lemon zest and serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

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