Arancini. A tasty Sicilian snack composed of day old risotto, stuffed with magic, rolled in a ball, coated with bread crumbs, and deep fried to perfection. There are so many variations when it comes to the filling. Most commonly, arancini are filled with a meat ragu, cheese, ham or even peas. Leave out the peas for me though. Mommy Dearest (I say this in the kindest and funniest way), made us finish our peas as children. Hence, I shall never eat a pea as an adult!
So, the next time you prepare risotto, be sure to make extra so that you may fry up a few of these beauties the next day. Why wait until the next day, you may ask? For one, to serve risotto in its original form the next day is just not going to happen. You can try to reheat, however, the texture changes completely, and more than likely will end up a bit sticky and gummy. You may even think about throwing it away. Do NOT. I repeat, do NOT! Turn this mess into something wonderful.
Arancini are super easy to make. Get creative with the filling. Just be mindful that to be true to the recipe, your arancini need to be super crispy on the outside, and gooey on the inside. I made a few with just mozzarella, and a few with a simple meat ragu and mozzarella.
You may wonder if you can just prepare risotto and make arancini immediately? The answer is yes. However, you may find that they fall apart easily. It’s best to wait a day. The starch from the rice that sits in the fridge overnight will create an amazing stickiness that is quite useful in the preparation of arancini.
PREPARE THE RISOTTO
Preparing the risotto is the probably the most difficult part of this recipe. You need to coddle it, and watch over it like a baby if you want a superior finished risotto. Click here to read my recipe. I almost always make an entire box just so I can have enough left over to make arancini the next day. I typically use arborio rice, but was recently introduced to Carnaroli Rice during a recent visit to Delallo Foods. Find this! Use this!
PREPPING THE RICE BALLS
Again, this is another one of those recipes that amounts really do not matter. Some of the balls will be bigger than others. Who cares? Use whatever amount of risotto you have left over. It may be a cup. It may be three cups. You may end up having more sauce left (if you choose to add sauce), or even cheese. This recipe is more about technique. Learn the technique and you will be fine.
I did prepare a simple, very simple meat ragu. I browned a bit of ground beef and added a cup or so of my homemade sauce. Using a jarred ragu is fine too. Make a little extra to use as a dipping sauce.
Back to the ball making. Heat canola or peanut oil to medium/medium-high in a deep cast iron pot. Grab a small handful of the risotto. Flatten on the palm of one of your hands. Not too thin because you will be adding the filling. Add a piece of mozzarella string cheese to the center. Wrap the risotto around the cheese. If you are making with ragu and cheese, use the same technique. Keep in the mind, grab a little extra to make the balls a bit bigger when using both ragu and cheese. Add peas if you want, or ham, or whatever you desire.
When filling, you just need to be sure that you have enough of the rice to cover the middle so that it does not seep through during the frying process. Wrap the rice around the filling and form a ball.
Prepare your dredging station. One bowl with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one bowl for the panko breadcrumbs and fresh parsley mixture. Dust the formed balls into the flour, first. Shake off any excess. Dip into the beaten eggs. Roll into the panko bread crumbs. Be sure all sides are coated. Finish prepping the remaining rice balls for frying.
FRYING AND SERVING THE ARANCINI
Place a few of the coated rice balls into the hot oil. Leave enough room because you will need to turn them with a spoon as they are frying to ensure all sides are nice and browned. Transfer from fryer to paper towels. Drain any excess oil. Salt immediately.
Grab a serving platter. Spoon on a bit of your prepared ragu, or marinara onto the plate or platter. Place an arancini on top. Do this with the remaining arancini. Top each with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley. Serve with extra ragu or marinara for dipping! Serve immediately, or later, at room temperature.
TIP: You can easily freeze the prepared rice balls for up to six months. Prepare the balls using the technique above. Do NOT fry. Store in freezer tight containers or bags and enjoy later!