Arancini di Riso (Sicilian Rice Balls)
One of the most typical Sicilian dishes is named after citrus, Arancini (a-ranch-ee-nee) or “little oranges.” Mediterranean street food at its best, Arancini are dense, fried rice balls filled with meat, peas, tomato sauce and canestrato fresco, a fresh, mild cheese. In western Sicily, the balls are round and in the eastern part of the region, they are conical-shaped.
30 oz. chicken or vegetable broth
4 oz. white wine
2 cups Arborio rice
Pinch of saffron (optional)
Pinch of salt
1 cup Ragù (meat sauce, made in advance)
6 oz. fresh or frozen peas
4 oz. mozzarella cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup fine bread crumbs
Pinch of salt
3 cups vegetable oil (neutral)
You can either make a traditional risotto and chill it to use for the arancini, or just boil the short-grained rice without any stirring! Simply bring the broth and wine to a boil, add the rice, saffron and salt. Lower the flame, and simmer covered until all the liquid is evaporated, around 14 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.
1. Add peas to the prepared Ragù.
2. To form the Arancini scoop up the rice in a ¼ cup measuring cup. Tap out and form a ball with your hands. Hold the ball in your left hand and with the fingers of your right hand, make a well.
3. Add a tablespoon of the Ragù and three cubes of cheese and reshape into a ball. Put each arancini on a tray.
4. Put flour, eggs, and salted bread crumbs in three separate bowls.
5. First, roll each rice ball into the flour, tapping off any excess flour. Then, dip into the egg mixture. Finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs until evenly coated.
6. At this point, you can either fry them immediately or put in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
7. Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep casserole to 360⁰ F. Fry the balls in small batches for just 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Removed with a slotted spoon onto a dish lined with paper towels.
8. Place on a serving dish and serve immediately! Or, refrigerate and then reheat for 10 minutes in a 400 ⁰F oven.
Makes: 12-16 Arancini, based on the size and shape.
Wine recommendation: As this is considered Sicilian street food, no need to get fancy with the wine. Any medium bodied red wine, from Italy or not, which would complement the meat Ragù would be fine. Don’t fuss! Just enjoy.