Italian Regional Recipes Snacks Starters

Arancini – Sicilian Rice Balls

Arancini di riso in Italian or Arancine, they are a staple of Sicilian cuisine, saffron-flavoured rice balls stuffed with Ragout with ragout, peas and a stringy cheese, generally Caciocavallo cheese, or also mozzarella or provola, then breaded and fried.

There are at least 20 different types of filling, although the classic one is with ragout and peas. In order to differentiate the filling, Sicilian Arancini are traditionally pear-shape when stuffed with ragout (meat sauce) and peas, whilst round-shape when they are ‘white’, that is with a filling of bechamel, diced ham or diced speck and provola cheese. We are going to make the classic version with ragout and peas.

The name Arancini is because they resemble an arancia, i.e. an orange.


Makes about 10 Arancini, Preparation 30 minutes, Cooking 2 hrs

  • For the rice:
  • 500 gr Carnaroli or Vialone nano rice
  • 70 g of butter
  • 1 sachet of saffron
  • Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino, 40 g
  • sale, to taste
  • For the meat sauce – ragout:
  • 150 gr of minced pork
  • 50 gr of minced beef
  • 1/2 onion, 1/2 carrot, a celery stalk
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil – EVOO
  • 200 ml of tomato sauce
  • 100 gr of fresh or tinned peas
  • 1/2 glass of white dry wine
  • salt, to taste
  • 80 gr of smoked Scamorza (or caciocavallo if you find it)
  • Peanut seeds oil for deep-frying, 1 lt
  • For the breading:
  • Plain flour, about 6 – 8 tablespoons and even a little more depending on how much the arancini absorb)
  • water, 1,2 lt
  • breadcrumbs, to taste

Method

Boil the rice in plenty of salted water, drain it al dente (ie at least 2 minutes before the standard cooking you find on the package), stir it in a saucepan with butter, saffron and grated Parmigiano or Pecorino, until you get a perfectly creamy and amalgamated mixture. Allow the rice cool down.

For the ragout : chop finely onion, celery and carrot and stir-fry them in 2 tbsp of EVOO with the bay leaf, add the minced meat, let it brown for 2 mins, add wine, let it to evaporate completely then pour in the tomato sauce, cover with a lid and cook over low heat for at least 1 hour.

As the meat sauce must be thick, keep cooking it by removing the lid and adding peas, cook for other 15 minutes try not to stir too much as peas must be intact. Discard the bay leaves.
Season with salt and pepper. Let it cool down.

Tip: before start with the making of Arancini, both rice and meat sauce must be cold. They will take about 2 hrs to cool down.


Take a couple of tablespoons of rice at a time, crush the pile in the centre of your hand to form a hollow and pour in a teaspoon of the meat sauce filling, add a few cubes of cheese, close the base of the arancino with another tablespoon of rice and shape it into a round or pear shape.
Proceed in this fashion for all the arancini.


Prepare the batter: pour the sifted flour, a pinch of salt and the water in a bowl. Mix thoroughly with a whisk to avoid lumps forming.
Dip arancini one by one in the batter taking care to cover them completely, then roll them in breadcrumbs.
If you want a lighter version, just pass them in breadcrumbs without batter.

Tip: for frying, choose a saucepan with high sides in which to fry in abundant peanut oil – oil is boiling at a temperature of 175 ° – and fry 2 to 3 pieces at a time. You can check the temperature by dipping a toothpick, if bubbles form around, the oil is ready.

Plunge Arancini completely in boiling oil and fry them for about 2 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper, add a pinch of salt, serve warm.

How to store Arancini?
At room temperature for 1 day, then better put them in the freezer where they will keep for about 3 days. You can re-heat them in the oven or microwave.

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