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What Are Panelle?

H. Bliss
By H. Bliss
Updated May 17, 2024
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Panelle is a fried snack usually served in flat, rectangular pieces that are crispy on the outside and somewhat chewy on the inside. It is made from a dough of chickpea flour prepared into firm squares that are fried in hot oil until they are browned and crispy. This food can be deep fried, but it is usually made in a pan. It is a common fast food eaten on the go in Italy, particularly Sicily. Small, postage-stamp-sized pieces of panelle are often eaten in sandwiches, while larger panelle pieces are served with a meal.

Before the panelle pieces are fried, the batter must be formed into firm squares. To make panelle batter, chickpea flour is cooked in a pot with oil and water until it becomes a thick batter, then it is spread out and chilled in a refrigerator on a large oiled pan until it is firm. Traditional batter is cooled on a cold marble slab. Once the mixture is chilled to firm, which takes about an hour, it is cut into pieces that are carefully removed with a spatula and fried in hot olive oil. Since the process of preparing the firm batter can be laborious, in Italy, prepared panelle squares can also be purchased from stores or vendors for frying at home.

This food is popular throughout Italy, but it is most often eaten in Palermo, a city in Southern Italy renowned for its exceptional food. In Palermo, panelles can also be purchased from street food vendors. In the rest of Italy, panelles are often bought at frigitteries, also called fry shops, which are food establishments dedicated to serving items that are fried in oil. This dish is also known as panelle di ceci and can be called chickpea fritters. These crispy, chewy squares are often served in sandwiches.

Chickpea flour is a powder made by grinding dried chickpeas, which are also known as garbanzo beans. It can be purchased at many grocery stores, especially specialty food stores that carry unusual types of flour. Aside from panelle, chickpea flour can be used to make tortillas, pancakes, and many other bready treats. Chickpeas are a versatile food that can be roasted or boiled and eaten whole or boiled and blended into hummus, a popular dip and spread made with a blend of chickpeas, oil, and tahini. At the store, whole chickpeas can be dry or cooked in a can.

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