February 4, 2009

Arancini - Cheesy Deep-Fried Risotto Deliciousness

I've been meaning to do this post since I first tried this recipe back in December but I kept forgetting to get pictures before MB, our friends and I devoured all of the goods. But before I get into the food, a quick update on the layout of this blog. I finally figured out how to get the "Read More" links to work. That means there will actually be more content after the jump. Finally!

Enough of that. On to the balls!

The whole arancini fetish started back in the fall when MB and I were brainstorming menu ideas for our annual Christmas party. Despite being the worst party food idea in history, I couldn't get risotto out of my head. Suddenly, I got the idea to bread small wads of leftover risotto and deep fry them. Presto! All the goodness of risotto in a bite-sized, finger-friendly ball...

3 seconds of researching deep fried risotto balls and it was pretty obvious I wasn't the first person to come up with the idea. Arancini are street food in Sicily and have been around for centuries. The word "arancini" literally means little oranges. There are several different varieties but the most common are filled with ragu, tomato sauce, mozzarella and peas. For our version, we decided to forego the extras and stick with rice and cheese.

As far as I can tell, arancini came about because people don't like leftover risotto. I say "people" because MB and I don't agree. Sure, the leftover rice doesn't have the same texture as a freshly made batch but if you've seasoned the dish well, the leftovers can make for a quick, delicious dinner if you're in a rush. For the record though, I will agree that the best way to eat leftover risotto is in a deep fried ball. 

So, how do you make these bad boys? Well, assuming you're already sitting on a pile of cooled risotto, it's really pretty easy; if you don't know how to make risotto, read four or five different recipes and give it a whirl. 

First, take a chunk of the rice and flatten it out in your hand, kinda like you were going to make a small hamburger. Then add whatever you want to stuff inside. Again, I've been sticking to mozzarella up to now but I could see adding meats, mushrooms, spinach, you name it.

Next, fold the rice over the cheese or whatever you've put inside and roll it into a small ball. Once all of your rice is rolled up, its time for the breading. There's some different strategies for this stage depending on who's recipe you're reading. Like many Old World recipes, people can get down right violent about how these things should be done "properly," but I say, whatever you want to do that will make a nice crunchy crust on the ball is gonna be good. Personally, i dredge the balls in flour, then in egg and finally in breadcrumbs. Once I'm finished, I like to throw the balls back in the fridge for a bit so they keep their shape.

Once the balls are ready to go, get the oil ready for frying. I use vegetable oil in a Le Creuset pot but you can do whatever oil/pan combination you like. Just make sure you know what the smoking point of your oil is. For my setup, I get the oil up to around 340 degrees - I use a candy thermometer to gauge the temp. Once the oil is hot, I ease the risotto balls into the pot. Because the balls are super dense, they sink to the bottom so you need to stir them occasionally so they don't over-brown on one side. After a few minutes or when the balls look like "little oranges," pull them out and place them on some paper towel to draw out any excess oil. We sometimes serve ours with a side of tomato sauce but they're just as good plain, if not better. Bon appetito and, as always, let me know if you give it a try.


CorrND said...

I'm with you guys -- leftover risotto is just fine by me! But we'll have to see about these arancini things. Sounds like a pretty fun method to play around with.

Alan Maginn said...

They are deadly delicious. They were a such a huge hit at our Christmas party, I made them for my family on Christmas Day. I don't know if my fam wasn't as excited about them or if MB and I just hogged them all but the two of us easily downed 75% of what we made. When it came to a Superbowl party, we went back to the well yet again. Basically, we use gatherings with other people as excuse for us to make 'em and eat 'em. Let me know if you try 'em.

Lira Faith said...

These are actually Orangini. My boyfriend's mom makes them all the time, and she's from Sicily. Usually there is a small bit of meat and pasta sauce, then the rice and cheese, then they're breaded and fried. The english translation is "little oranges," cause that's what they look like when they're out of the fryer. :)

Rudy said...


In Rome they called these 'suppli' and at 1000L a pop I'd eat (in the neighborhood of) 10 per day.

But seriously - if you plan on making these anytime soon, I'd like in!