Frico: the most traditional recipe of Friuli
If in the same sentence you find Friuli Venezia Giulia and typical cuisine, you can bet that immediately afterward you will also read the word Frico.
If a land can be enclosed in a dish, Frico encloses Friuli. It is a simple and poor dish, but rich in taste. It also represents very well people from Friuli. We have a hard crust but a tender heart.
If you want to fall in love with the Frico, read on.
Let’s start with the basics: what is Frico? Easier to be done than said because there are as many versions of frico as families in Friuli.
You could define Frico as a fried-cheese cake. Those who say it is a cheese and potato pie actually say an inaccuracy because not all versions of this recipe include potatoes.
On the other hand, cheese is there and has always been, albeit in different forms.
What Frico is not
Beware of what you can find online. The first result you find is Lidia Bastianich’s version but what she describes it’s not the real frico.
There are no eggs in Frico. Please refer to this recipe of hers. But do not match it with salad.
What is the original Frico recipe from Friuli?
The first written records of Frico date back to around 1400 when the cook Maestro Martino transcribed the recipe. For obvious reasons (America had not yet been discovered), there are no potatoes.
A 600-year-old recipe, however, is not enough to decree the true, original recipe of Friulian Frico.
Fresh or aged cheese? Cheese or strissulis (the scraps of cheese preparation)? Boiled potatoes or not? Onion or not?
Only on one thing all Friulians will agree with. Frico and Polenta is a match made in heaven.
Frico with potatoes and onion, crispy frico and ball frico
With such a nebulous tradition, it’s inevitable that over time many types of frico have emerged.
- Frico with potatoes (and onion)
- Frico of cheese only that can be soft, crunchy or… ball frico.
Frico with potatoes is perhaps the most popular in the region, only the proportions of potatoes and cheese vary. This is certainly the most substantial version that was once brought to work by the hard-working people of Carnia.
In the Cividale area you will also find the particular ball-frico made with only cheese that swells up to form an “air chamber”.
When you are in Friuli Venezia Giulia you can taste all the versions in the countless Frico Festivals spread in the summer months.
The secret ingredient
The secret ingredient to cook the perfect Friulian Frico… it’s not an ingredient.
Get a well-fitting pan to create the typical crust which is the tastiest part of the dish. While you cook it, the Frico will have to slide and rotate on the pan without sticking to it.
My comfort food
Certainly, Frico and polenta is not a light dish but I consider it my comfort food.
The frico has the flavor of summer, of village festivals. It’s the reward after a bad day at work or after long hikes. Impossible to count the Frichi that I ate in the refuge, tight in my anorak in front of breathtaking views.
Certainly, Frico is not a light dish but I consider it my comfort food.
It has the flavor of summer and village festivals. It’s the reward after a bad day at work or after long hikes. Impossible to count the fricos that I ate in the mountain huts, tight in my anorak in front of breathtaking views.
For some time I was not satisfied with my version, until after a year of trying the magic happened.
I am finally able to share my frico recipe. My advice to you is: don’t worry if it doesn’t come out right the first time, like all good things, it will if you keep trying.
Cheese is the ingredient that will most influence the yield and taste.
If you like savory dishes and prefer a crispier frico, use aged cheeses. If, on the other hand, you prefer a softer frico you can opt for less aged cheeses. For my version, I used 450 gr of 2 months old Montasio and 50 gr of more aged cheese.
- Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add a few drops of olive oil and a sliver of butter.
While the butter is melting, cut the half onion and add it to the butter when it is hot. While the onions simmer (add a tablespoon of water if needed), peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes.
- While the potatoes are cooking, cut the Montasio.
ATTENTION! Many people boil potatoes ahead, but to me, it would be like cheating. Take your time and don’t rush. Take care of the potatoes. Alternate medium and low heat and again, if necessary, add a tablespoon of water from time to time so that they don’t brown too much. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Potatoes are ready when you can mash them with a fork.
- Once ready, add the cheese and witness the magic. Incorporate the cheese with a spatula and a wooden spoon, massaging it and distributing it until it fills the bottom of the pan.
- Lower the heat and let it cook. As the cheese melts, it penetrates the potatoes and together they create a fiery end-of-the-world blend.
- When the crust has formed, it’s time to turn the frico. How? Place a large plate or the lid of the saucepan on top of the pan and turn it upside down (do you understand why it is important that the pan is non-stick?). Cook until a tart forms on this side as well.
- Slide the frico onto a plate and serve immediately with the polenta.
The 10 things you need to know before talking about Frico with a Friulian
- It is never too hot for frico
- The best Frico is always that of the grandmother / mother / uncle / husband etc.
- Frico is a transversal dish: it goes well as an appetizer, main course, side dish. Is it too much having frico for breakfast too?
- Frico is made with Montasio or strissulis.
- Crispy frico is more addictive than potato chips.
- Frico is a rustic dish, those who want to make it gourmet have not understood a thing.
- Frico is a cheap dish
- With frico you need polenta, lots of polenta
- The best restaurants to eat frico are the summer village festivals
- NEVER insult the frico in front of a Friulian.