Arancini are small balls of risotto that are stuffed with a variety of fillings and then breaded and deep fried. They originated from Italy, and were once simple peasant fare. The woman of the house would use up leftover risotto and ragu in creating the arancini, thus avoiding waste, and also providing the working man with a filling and nutritious lunch that was easy to carry.
Because the deep fried balls used to resemble little oranges, they were named arancini, which means little orange in Italian. More recently though arancini have become an appetizer, and have also become much smaller as a consequence. In the past, arancini may have been quite large, but these days they are typically no more than 2 or 3 inches in diameter. If you have leftover risotto (not frequent in our house!) you can easily make these arancini, and they can be stuffed with many different treats. Bolognese sauce or ragu is a common stuffing, as is mozzarella cheese. You could also stuff them with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, or anything else small and able to fit within the arancini. If it works with regular risotto dishes it will most likely work with arancini as well.
While the arancini can be breaded using the typical flour, egg, breadcrumb method, I have found that using a batter in lieu of the flour and egg creates a thicker crust that provides more crunch.
- 8 ounces risotto
- 5 ounces mozzarella, chopped into chunks
- Fillings of your choice (bolognese, mushrooms, sun dried tomato, etc)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup water
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups dried breadcrumbs
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Stir the mozzarella chunks into the risotto. Roll a tablespoonful between wet palms to form a ball of your chosen size. Poke a hole in the middle and spoon your filling in, then plug the hole with extra rice. Repeat until all the rice is used up. If you are only using mozzarella you can skip stirring it into the risotto and simply put it inside the balls as the filling.
- Beat together the egg, flour and enough water to make a thick batter and season with salt and pepper. Put the breadcrumbs on a plate or in a bowl.
- Heat the oil in a deep pan to 350 degrees, or until a breadcrumbs sizzle on contact. As the oil is heating, dip each rice ball into the batter to coat, then into the breadcrumbs, heaping them on top until it is well covered.
- Cook in batches until golden brown, making sure the oil comes back up to temperature between batches, and drain on kitchen towel. Sprinkle with a little salt while still warm and serve hot or cold. If making mozzarella arancini they can be served with bolognese sauce or marinara sauce for dipping.
As far as I’m concerned, frying rice is a great way to make a crunchy and different appetizer, and who doesn’t like risotto? Frying it with savory fillings makes it even more sublime, and this recipe could be just the thing to make your guests say “Wow” at your next party or game day celebration.