Monday, December 16, 2013


Nonna Rosalia, my paternal grandmother, was a great cook as most Italian grandmothers are. She was not, however, a traditional grandmother chained to the kitchen from dawn to dawn*. In fact, with her degree in Math obtained in Palermo in the Forties and her teaching job, she considered herself (and rightfully so) a modern, emancipated Italian woman. This also meant she liked to escape the dogmas of traditional Sicilian cooking and experiment with more modern recipes, mostly successfully. (Especially if I disregard her green-apple mousse that still counts as one of the most vile things I've ever ingested.) 

In the early 2000s, Nonna Rosalia acquired the recipe for Bombe, which are fried, savory doughnuts made with gnocchi dough and yeast and filled with mozzarella, prosciutto cotto (Italian ham), and mushroom. I was lucky enough to be there during the first preparation: Prepping the bombe's filling, waiting nervously as they rose under a kitchen towel, and tapping my foot and biting my lip with excited expectation as they finally rolled and puffed up in boiling oil. 

The bombe were a complete triumph: They were soft, not greasy, a perfect explosion of Italian comfort-food flavors. They forever hooked me, my sister, and our cousins from the very first bite. And thereafter we felt like bombe had been there for us all of our lives, fueling our physical and emotional growth, lovingly tying us to our family roots, reconnecting us to the best of our childhood, even though we were tasting them for the first time in our early twenties. Bombe became an instant family tradition, one that we begged Nonna Rosalia to bring back for birthdays and holidays, and one that now makes us immediately think of her now that she's no longer with us. 

Two months ago my second child was born, and my sister came to visit and help. She and I decided then to celebrate with a massive batch of bombe. They came out great, and it felt great to make them again. Here's the recipe.


1 packet active dry yeast
1 lb Russet potatoes
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt

3 eggs
1/2 lb ham, shredded
1/2 lb mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup cooked mushroom
enough oil for deep frying
  • Activate the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water.
  • Boil the potatoes in salted water for 30 min, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Let them cool to a reasonable temperature and peel them.
  • Press the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. If you don't own a potato ricer, I hear you can use a grater and then fluff the grated potatoes with a fork.
  • Add the flour, salt, yeast, and eggs until the dough is manageable and soft and comes together, but is still a little sticky. If you've ever made gnocchi, that's what it should feel like.
  • Roll the dough into a 3-inches wide log, then cut 1-inch wide discs and arrange them on a floured surface.
  • Place a disc in the palm of your hand and place a little ham and mozzarella, or mushroom and mozzarella (about a tablespoon) in the center. Pinch the edges together to close the filling inside.
  • Continue stuffing the bombe, arranging them an inch from each other.
  • Cover the bombe with a floured kitchen towel, and let them rest for an hour or until they have doubled in size.
  • Fry the bombe in at least 3 or 4 inches of oil and serve them warm.

*Pardon the stereotype. I base it only on my other relatives from Sicily, whose reason to exist seems to produce unlimited quantities of culinary triumphs.

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