Arancini

/5

PRESENTATION

Arancini (or arancine) rice balls, the pride of Sicilian cuisine, can be eaten as a snack or served as an appetizer, first course, or even main course. You’ll find them everywhere in Sicily, at any time of day or year, always served hot and fragrant at the island’s many fried food shops, although their shape and size will often vary from town to town, from oval to pear-shaped or round, depending on the filling. There are around 100 variations on the arancino, from the most traditional, with ragu and ham, to the most original, like pistachio or spinach, and you’ll even find them baked! Our recipe focuses on two timeless classics, the first with pork ragu and peas and the second with ham and mozzarella. Which will be your favorite?

INGREDIENTS

Ingredients for about 12 balls
Saffron 1 tsp - (1 sachet)
Butter 2 tbsp (30 g)
Vialone nano rice 2 ¾ cups (500 g)
Fine salt 1 pinch
Water 5 cups (1.2 l)
Caciocavallo cheese 1 cup (100 g) - (grated)
For the ragù filling
Fine salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Onions ½
Butter 1 ¾ tbsp (25 g)
Pork 3 ½ oz (100 g)
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Tomato puree ¾ cup (200 ml)
Peas 0.6 cup (80 g)
Caciocavallo cheese 1 ¾ oz (50 g)
Red wine 3 ½ tbsp (50 ml)
For the ham filling
Baked ham 1 oz (30 g) - (1 slice)
Mozzarella cheese 2 oz (60 g)
For the batter
Flour 00 1 ¾ cup (200 g)
Fine salt 1 pinch
Water 1 ⅓ cup (300 ml)
For breading and frying
Breadcrumbs to taste
Vegetable oil to taste
Preparation

How to prepare Arancini

To prepare the arancini, start by boiling the rice in 5 cups (1.2 L) of salted boiling water 1 so that when it’s cooked, the water will be completely absorbed (this will ensure that all of the starch remains in the pan and you’ll get a very dry and compact rice). Cook for about 15 minutes, then dissolve the saffron in a drop of hot water and add it to the cooked rice 2. Add the chopped butter as well 3.

Add the grated cheese 4, mix well to combine everything, then pour the rice onto a wide, shallow tray 5, spread evenly, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool completely (the wrap will keep the surface of the rice from drying out). Let the rice rest for a couple of hours at room temperature. In the meantime, prepare your ragu filling, starting by peeling and finely slicing the onion 6.

Sweat the chopped onion in a pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and the butter 7, then add the ground meat 8. Brown over high heat, then add the wine 9 and allow the alcohol to evaporate.

At this point, add the tomato puree 10 and salt and pepper to taste, cover, and simmer on low heat for at least 20 minutes. Add the peas halfway through (11-12) (you can add just a little hot water if need be, because the ragu should be nicely thickened and not runny).

While the peas are cooking, cut the caciocavallo cheese 13, ham 14, and mozzarella 15 into cubes. Now all your fillings are ready.

Once the rice has cooled completely (this will take at least a couple of hours), you can start shaping your arancini balls. Keep a bowl of water close by so you can moisten your hands to help you during the process. Taking a couple of tablespoons of rice at a time (around 120 g of rice), press the mixture into the hollow of your palm to form a shell 16, spoon in a teaspoon of ragu filling 17, and add a few cubes of caciocavallo cheese 18.

Next, fill in the base of the arancino ball with the rice 19, and shape it into a point 20. You can shape all of the arancini stuffed with ragu in this way. For the ham filling 21, meanwhile, fill each arancino ball (consisting of around ¾ cup (130 g) of rice) with diced ham and mozzarella. Arancini made with this type of filling are traditionally referred to as “al burro.”

Roll into balls 22. Now that you have all of your arancini ready 23, you'll need to prepare the batter. Pour the sifted flour, a pinch of salt and the water into a bowl 24. Mix thoroughly with a whisk to prevent any lumps from forming.

Next, dip the arancini into the batter 25 one at a time, ensuring that you cover them completely 26, and roll them in the breadcrumbs 27.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and bring it to a temperature of 340°F (170°C), at which point you can start frying your arancini, one at a time, two at most 28, so as not to lower the temperature of the oil. Once they are golden brown 29, drain them by placing them on a tray lined with paper towel 30. These arancini are definitely best served nice and hot!

Storage

You can store the cooked arancini balls in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Alternatively, you can prepare the rice the day before, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. You can freeze them before cooking if you have used all fresh ingredients, rather than defrosted, and fry them directly from frozen when needed. In this case, we would recommend making them slightly smaller so that they cook more evenly.

Tips

If you like, you can replace the caciocavallo cheese with fresh pecorino, provola, or mozzarella.

Interesting fact

Arancini (“little orange”) rice balls, which take their name from the fact their shape makes them resemble oranges, are typical of Messina and Palermo, but are traditionally prepared throughout Sicily. Some say that arancini were first created by the nuns in convents, while others say they originated in wealthy baronial houses. Others still take a more practical view, believing them to stem from the tradition in popular cuisine to cleverly and imaginatively recycle leftovers into tasty new dishes.