Falafel Italiano Recipe

After enjoying Israeli falafel for decades, it struck me that the basic ingredients of falafel, namely the fried chickpea mixture could be flavored with all sorts of seasonings, not just the standard Middle Eastern ones. So, here is my Italian variety. Falafel usually is served in pita bread but for this recipe, I recommend using Italian bread or rolls, cut as for an Italian meatball sandwich.

I highly recommend purchasing a falafel maker, usually available at Middle Eastern grocery stores. A falafel maker is a spring-loaded kitchen gadget that helps you shape the falafel into uniformly shaped disks, which you can then eject directly into the oil.


1 cup dried chickpeas, (garbanzo beans) soaked overnight,
cooked for ½ hour, then drained
1 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained
1-teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 Tablespoon flour
Tablespoon Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup bulgur soaked, then squeezed of almost all water content
1-teaspoon baking powder
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium egg
3 Tablespoons, finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
½ teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
2 Tablespoons dried basil OR 3 Tablespoons fresh finely chopped basil
4 dashes cayenne pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Optional Garnishes:

Roma tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
Shredded lettuce
Sautéed sliced onions
Sautéed sliced bell pepper
Thinly sliced Mozzarella or Provolone cheese
Gardinara mix (hot or mild….your choice)
Your favorite prepared marinara sauce, heated


Put the chickpeas in a 2-quart soup pot, add the water, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
Drain the chickpeas and reserve the liquid.
OR if using canned garbanzos, go directly to the next step.

Grind the chickpeas through the coarse blade of a meat grinder or pulse in a food processor. Remove to a bowl.
In the bowl, mix together all the ingredients.
Add salt to taste.
The mixture should be the consistency of cooked oatmeal.
If it is too loose, add a little more flour.
Form into 1-inch balls, then flatten each slightly in your hand to make a patty.
In a deep saucepan or a wok, heat 3 inches of oil to 375º F.
Make one falafel ball as a test to determine if it will hold together in the oil. If it tends to fall apart, add a little more flour.
Deep-fry in batches until golden.
Using a skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain.
Tuck into warm pita bread or fold into a wrap, along with whichever additions you choose.

Alternatively, serve the falafel balls as an appetizer with marinara sauce for dipping.

Makes 24 – 30 individual falafel balls.


About Rabbi Michael Sternfield

Michael Sternfield has been a Reform rabbi for 40 years, most recently serving at Chicago Sinai Congregation from 1995 until 2013. He served for 20 years as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, and briefly as the leader of the Durban, South Africa Progressive Jewish Congregation during South Africa’s historic transition to multi-racial democracy. He is now based in Los Angeles, California.