Get ready to embark on a culinary journey to Northern Italy with this delightful frico recipe! This rustic, comforting dish of potatoes and cheese is perfect for those chilly evenings when you’re craving a warm and satisfying meal.
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
Friulian frico is so far from my Neapolitan roots that it almost feels like it’s from another country. Frico is this rich, hearty meal that’s perfect for the cold winters up in Northern Italy, which is quite different from the milder Neapolitan winters I’m used to.
Funny story – I actually stumbled upon this scrumptious dish right here in London, of all places! A Friulian friend introduced me to it a few years back, and let me tell you, it was love at first bite!
- Aquileia Chardonnay
- Isonzo Riesling
- Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso
The oldest frico recipes ever heard of go all the way back to the mid-fifteenth century. Back then, potatoes weren’t even a part of the dish, as they were introduced to Europe from America in the following century. Instead, frico was made from strips of cheese roasted in butter or lard, then flavoured with sugar and cinnamon or ginger. Friulian Frico was born out of a desire to reduce food waste, just like many other delicious dishes. Back in the day, frico was actually considered a humble, peasant dish. It was cleverly invented as a way to make use of those leftover cheese scraps from the cheese wheel-making process. These ancient recipes come from Maestro Martino, the chef for Ludovico Trevisan, who was the Patriarch of Aquileia from 1439 to 1465. Corn hadn’t made its way to Europe yet, so this early frico was enjoyed with bread.
A folktale on how to frico came to be
Legend has it that one time, a woman from the Carnic region left a pan of boiled potatoes and cheese on her “spolert” (a traditional wood-fired stove from the Friuli region) before heading out to work in the fields. She hoped that the dish would still be warm when she returned. Little did she know, the cheese had melted beautifully onto the potatoes, creating a divine, flavorful frico that we continue to savor to this day!
The friulian frico we know and love today -sometimes made with onion, bacon, leeks, or even rosemary- was ctually a hearty meal for friulian woodcutters known as “menaus.” They’d bring it with them into the woods and cook polenta over a fire. Nowadays, it’s a mouthwatering dinner that brings people together on chilly evenings in the stunning Dolomites region. You can even find it served up as a fancy dinner in ski resorts, where both Italians and tourists alike can’t get enough of this comforting dish.
Friulian Frico is high in fat, primarily due to the cheese. The recipe provides a moderate amount of protein and a moderate amount of carbohydrates. The Frico should be consumed occasionaly.
- Proteins 17% 17%
- Carbs 19% 19%
- Fats 63% 63%
When making Friulian frico, the traditional choice is Montasio cheese. But I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had a tough time finding it outside Italy (and even in some southern regions of Italy). Don’t worry though, there are plenty of other delicious cheeses you can use! Just be sure to pick two different ones: one young and one more aged. And, of course, make sure they melt well to create that perfect frico consistency.
I’ve got a few personal favourites that I usually turn to for this recipe: Gruyere, mild Cheddar, Emmental, Fontina, Raclette, Comte, and Monterey Jack. They all work beautifully in a frico!
When it comes to choosing onions for this recipe, I’ve found that brown or pink onions work like a charm. It’s probably best to steer clear of red onions, though – they tend to bring a more intense flavour that might just overpower the dish.
You know what makes all the difference when selecting potatoes for this recipe? Choosing red potatoes! They have a lower starch content and more natural sugars than their counterparts, giving them a beautifully sticky texture. And that, my friend, is just the kind of consistency that takes your frico from failure to absolutely divine!
- Total Time: 60 minutes
- Yield: 4 portions 1x
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 500 grams of potatoes
- 150 grams of 3-month-old Montasio cheese
- 150 grams of 6-month-old Montasio cheese
- 1 medium brown onion
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil to fry
In a large non-stick pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned.
Add the thinly sliced potatoes to the pan, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the potatoes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, until they are tender and begin to fall apart when mixed. Season the potatoes lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper, taking care not to oversalt as the cheese will add additional flavour.
Once the potatoes are cooked through, add the thinly sliced cheese to the pan. Stir the mixture gently to incorporate the cheese and potatoes evenly.
Continue to cook the frico over low heat, allowing a golden crust to form on the bottom.
Carefully flip the frico using another pan of the same or greater diameter, or a large lid, to assist with the process. It’s recommended to perform this step over the sink to prevent any oil spills on the stovetop.
Allow the frico to cook until a golden crust has formed on both sides.
Serve the rustic potato and cheese frico warm, accompanied by a side of steaming polenta. Enjoy!
For the best flavour, it’s highly recommended to enjoy your potato and onion frico fresh out of the pan! If needed, you can store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to one day and reheat them either on the stovetop or in the oven.
Please note that freezing frico is not advised.
This particular recipe showcases the most traditional version of frico. However, feel free to explore delightful variations by incorporating additional ingredients such as pancetta, cubed speck, fragrant rosemary, sage, or tender sliced leeks.
Should your frico appear excessively greasy after cooking, simply drain off the excess fat before transferring it to a serving plate and slicing.
This recipe calls for a blend of fresh and aged Montasio cheese, but if you’re unable to find it, feel free to substitute with a semi-aged or aged cheese of your choice.
Interestingly, frico comes in two distinct styles: soft and crunchy. The soft version resembles an omelette, while the crunchy variant is thin, crumbly, and typically made with grated Latteria or Montasio cheese and cornmeal. The crunchy frico is often shaped into “baskets” to hold delectable fillings like polenta or cheese.
Traditionally, frico is paired with a side of warm polenta, creating a perfect harmony of flavours and textures. However, you may also consider serving it alongside a fresh, vibrant green salad for a delightful contrast.
For an even heartier rendition of this dish, follow in the footsteps of Friulian farmers who crown their frico with a perfectly fried sunny-side-up egg. This indulgent touch adds an extra layer of richness and depth to an already comforting meal.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Vegetables
- Method: pan fried
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: potatoes, cheese, heart dinner, weekday dinner, winter food, cheese lovers, cucina povera