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What is frico? History and a recipe of a symbol of Friuli

It is one of the most famous dishes of Friulian cuisine, originally from the Carnia mountains. It looks like a kind of pie with a crunchy crust and an irresistible soft heart, ideal as a main course or even a single dish. We are talking about frico, a rich and tasty cheese-based specialty. A simple, nourishing and much loved recipe, linked to the tradition of this Italian region.

Pane Vino Rialto Frico

A historic dish with many variations

Frico is a poor and anti-waste recipe, born to reuse the scraps of fresh cheese (in Friulian strissulis) that were left over during the making of the cheese wheels. The first written records of the frico date back to the mid 15th century, when Maestro Martino da Como, cook of the patriarch of Aquileia at the time, wrote about this recipe in the book “De Arte Coquinaria”. He called it caso in patellecte, namely cheese to be eaten “very hot at the end of a meal”.

The classic version is usually made with cheese and potatoes, but the recipe changes from valley to valley and from house to house. Among the ingredients that can be added: onions, herbs, chilli, bacon, speck, and so on and so forth. There is also a crunchy version of frico, very crumbly and without potatoes, where cheese is cooked with a drizzle of oil and is often presented as a small basket.


Here’s a curiosity: in Slovenia, a country adjoining Friuli, this typical shepherd’s dish is called frika and is enriched with eggs.

Frico with potatoes: our recipe

There is no single way to cook frico. Like any traditional recipe, each family has its own and jealously guards its secrets. Among the few certainties there is the kind of cheese to use. The tradition dictates the Montasio cheese, typical from Friuli, mixing different types of it — one younger and one more aged. If you want to try it at home, here is our version of frico with potatoes and onions.

Ingredients for 4 people:

650 g potatoes
180 g onions
150 g Montasio cheese (90 days)
50 g Montasio cheese (aged)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cut the cheese into small cubes and set aside.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into rather large chunks.
  3. Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover them with cold water and add a handful of salt. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once cooked, drain and mash the potatoes with a fork. Set them aside in a large bowl.
  5. Finely chop the onion and sauté it in a 25 cm wide pan with a drizzle of oil. When it is golden and softened, remove it from the heat.
  6. Add the stewed onion to the potatoes and cheese. Mix everything well, then add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Put the pan used for the onion over high heat. As soon as the pan has heated up well, lower the heat and pour in the mixture of cheese, potatoes and onion.
  8. Mash the mixture with a fork, trying to give it the shape of a disc.
  9. When it begins to brown and is crisp, flip it and let it brown on the other side as well.
  10. Once this is done, the frico is ready to be enjoyed.

We recommend combining the frico with slices of San Daniele ham, as we do here at Pane e Vino, or with some grilled polenta, as they usually do in Carnia. It goes very well with a Friulian red wine, such as a Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso. Buon appetito!

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