An Introduction to Arancini

Have some leftover risotto? Enter arancini! These fried balls of rice, a traditional Sicilian dish, are delicious as an appetizer or even as an indulgent lunch. Arancini derives its name from the Italian word for “little orange” (arancina); they resemble their titular fruit in both size and shape. Coated in breadcrumbs and fried to a golden brown, they can even be orange-colored.

The insides are what really make arancini exciting, though. The rice ball is formed around a variety of fillings to make a gooey, molten center. Traditionally, they’re stuffed with mozzarella and meat in tomato sauce, perhaps with the addition of some peas and diced carrots. However, variations are common: specialty arancini, filled with mushrooms, pistachios, eggplant, or pesto are common. Remember to include some cheese, particularly mozzarella, to really up the comfort factor!

Traditionally made with saffron risotto, arancini can be made with whatever leftover risotto you have, although you’d certainly want to ensure that any large additions to the rice are removed before forming. The most important thing is to ensure that your risotto is nice and sticky. This means more cheese! While your rice is still warm, stir in plenty of extra Parmesan – there’s no such thing as too much! This will make your rice much more likely to hold together when forming your arancini.

Make sure your risotto is nice and cool – preferably chilled overnight in the refrigerator – then begin shaping around your chosen filling. The size can vary depending on use – if eating as an appetizer, a smaller, apricot-sized ball is perfect; if cooking for lunch, think tangerine. Once formed, coat in breadcrumbs. For a really crisp coating, roll the arancini in a batter made of egg, flour and water before coating in breadcrumbs, for a shell that will stay robust even when cool.

Now you’re ready to cook! Arancini really are best when deep-fried – while shallow-frying is possible, it’s not ideal. Add vegetable oil to a deep pan, full enough to submerge your food. Heat until a breadcrumb sizzles – about 350 degrees. Let fry until golden brown, then remove to drain on a paper towel.

Armed with some leftover risotto and lots of cheese, you’ll be snacking like a Sicilian in no time!

Arancini

3 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup arborio rice
½ tsp salt
Pinch of saffron
1/4 cup Il Villaggio Parmesan, grated (omit this and previous ingredients if using leftover risotto)
1/3 cup Il Villaggio mozzarella, chopped into chunks
Fillings of your choice (meat ragu, pesto, sauteed mushrooms, etc)
1 egg
¾ cup plain flour
2 cups dried breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil, to cook
(Makes 10 medium balls)

If you are using leftover risotto, skip this step. Otherwise, bring the stock to the boil in a medium pan, then stir in the rice, salt and saffron. Bring back up to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer on a medium heat until the stock is absorbed. Stir in the grated parmesan and season to taste, then leave to cool completely.

Stir the mozzarella into the now cool rice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Roll between your palms to form a ball of your chosen size. Poke a hole in the middle and spoon your filling in, then plug the hole with extra rice. Repeat until all the rice is used up.

Beat together the egg, flour and enough water to make a thick batter (about ¾ cup), and season. Put the breadcrumbs on to a plate.

Heat the oil in a deep pan, no more than a third full, to 350 degrees, or until a breadcrumb sizzles on contact. As it is heating, dip each rice ball into the batter to coat, then roll into the breadcrumbs until well covered.

Cook in batches until golden brown, making sure the oil comes back up to temperature between batches, and drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with a little salt while still warm, and serve hot or cold.

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