Neapolitan Rice with Extravagant Filling

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    10 to 12

Appears in

Italian Slow and Savory

Italian Slow and Savory

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 2004

  • About

This dish seems like it has nearly everything in it. The name comes from the French surtout, meaning “above all.” Not surprisingly, it is a recipe the imported French-trained monzù, or chefs, served to Neapolitan royalty in the eighteenth century. This is your chance to share in their delicious excess. Indeed, some cooks make even more elaborate versions of this rice casserole, or bomba, by cooking the peas in butter with prosciutto, adding sausage along with the meatballs, or using a rich cream sauce to bind the filling.


For the Rice

  • Salt
  • 3 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup Meat Sauce from Naples
  • ¾ cup Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Meatballs

  • 6 ounces ground beef
  • ½ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 chicken livers, well trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 2 to 3 cups Meat Sauce from Naples
  • About 1 cup dried bread crumbs
  • ¼ pound prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 cups shelled fresh English peas, blanched for 1 minute and drained, or thawed, frozen peas
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving


To cook the rice, bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the rice and boil until al dente, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the rice and transfer to a bowl. Stir in the sauce, cheese, and then the eggs. Set aside.

To make the meatballs, in a bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs, egg, and Parmesan and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat. Fry up a tiny nugget of the mixture, taste it, and then adjust the seasoning. Form the mixture into about 20 small meatballs, each about the size of an unshelled hazelnut (about ½ inch in diameter). Add the meatballs to the pan and fry on all sides until golden and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

While the meatballs are cooking, begin to soak the porcini mushrooms in hot water to cover for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, and chop finely. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Set the mushrooms and liquid aside.

To make the rest of the filling, in a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the chopped porcini and the chicken livers, and cook rapidly for 3 minutes to color the livers. Stir in ¼ cup of the sauce and the porcini soaking liquid and simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Transfer to a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and lightly coat the bottom and sides with a few spoonfuls of the bread crumbs.

Set aside one-third of the cooked rice. Using the remaining rice, pat a layer about 1 inch thick onto the bottom and sides of the prepared pan. Layer the prosciutto on the rice on the bottom of the pan. Layer on top in the following order: the peas, the hard-boiled eggs, the chicken liver mixture, the meatballs, and the mozzarella. Top with the reserved rice in an even layer. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining bread crumbs and dot with the butter.

Bake the rice until golden, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

Reheat the remaining sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. Run a knife along the inside of the pan sides to loosen the rice, then unclamp and remove the pan sides. Slide the casserole onto a serving plate, cut into wedges, and serve accompanied with the warm sauce. Pass the Parmesan at the table.


We need a big red wine here. An Aglianico red from Campania such as Taurasi Riserva, a Super Tuscan, or a Cabernet Sauvignon will stand up to the richness.