Arancini. Risotto Balls. Very Italian! As I’ve said before, I am not Italian but I am proud to be called an “honourary Italian”. I’ve been so since I was a kid.
Our family hung out with a lot of Italians. In one family in our neighbourhood, the father was a commercial baker and the mother an amazing home cook.
Other friends “on The Heights” in North Burnaby owned a very popular pizzeria (Portofino) and later a cappuccino bar (Café Classico); and, as an adult, I spent a lot of time with my friends on Commercial Drive in Vancouver’s Little Italy sipping cappuccino’s and drinking bitters at Café Calabria and last, but definitely not least, my friend “T” and his mama “Mrs. C”…both share my passion for Italian cooking!
For awhile there, I was preoccupied with French cooking and, like the Italian connections above, we had many French restauranteur friends that invited my sister, brother and I into their kitchens as children to “help” cook crepes, eat escargot and other things French. My focus on French food is not artsy Parisienne, not “high brow” gourmet as some call it but more French country cooking.. This is the type of cooking my chef friend Herve has inspired in me. Burgundy. Down home stuff. Stew! Braised meats! Coq au Vin. Boeuf bourguignon. Beautiful stocks! YUM! I LOVE French food. I love cooking French food! It feeds my soul.
More and more though, for my everyday cooking, I seem to focus on Italian: pasta, seafood, seafood pasta, osso buco, risotto, arancini. Its not that French is more difficult for me than Italian, or that either is more labour intensive than the other. It depends on the recipe, of course. But I still seem to gravitate toward Italian, at least lately. Maybe it’s a phase. I’m planning an epic trip to southern Italy, so that might be what its about. We went to Northern Italy, Southern France and Paris a couple of years ago and when we returned, I was cooking all manner of French and Italian foods. Again, I guess I’m just excited to learn about the places I’m visiting and I’m going back to Italy this time, oh, and Ireland, but that will be a different post! Maybe I’ll be “honourarily IRISH” soon! Probably!
So, being “Honourary Italian” right now, this post is about Arancini. Risotto Balls. This is a great recipe for using up the leftovers of that delicious risotto you made the night before. It really doesn’t matter what flavour of risotto you made…just make a ball out of it, stuff a cube of mozza in it, fry it and bada bing. I know, “bada bing’…American Italian but its kinda fun to say it. Did I mention I’m listening to Dino (Martin) right now? That’s my thing: listen to the tunes that fit the food! Ain’t THAT a kick in the head?!
We made the arancini a couple of months ago. I had the leftover risotto from the night before and had planned on making the arancini the next day to set up this blog post. I was out during the day having a drink with a friend and got a call from another friend wanting to pop over for a drink in the evening, then, another couple showed up. It turned into a group arancini making assembly line event! Hence the “we” made it. It was so much fun! I highly recommend it!
Call on The Assembly Line for assistance!
Here’s the end result:
[Disclaimer: all pics of participants have been edited out to protect the guilty…I mean innocent…there was a lot of wine involved and there might have been some really loud group singing…all as it should be…if you’re Honourary Italian]!
Mushroom and Mozzarella Stuffed Arancini
- 4 to 6 cups chilled risotto (I used lemon thyme but you can use any flavour you prefer)
- 1½ cups wild mushroom duxelle (or preferred blend of sautéed mushrooms roughly minced)
- 1 cup (approx.) of ¼ inch cubed mozzarella
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 4 eggs (separated)
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme (or Italian seasoning)
- ¾ teaspoon fine kosher salt
- 2 cups fine breadcrumbs (or panko for a crunchier coating)
- 2 cups peanut or olive (not EVOO) oil for frying (enough for ½” in pan)
- Marinara sauce and fresh torn basil for serving
Forming and Dredging the Arancini Balls:
- Working quickly, place the cold risotto in a large bowl and gently stir in the egg yolks. You want to keep the ingredients cold so they’re easier to roll into balls later. Place back in refrigerator while you set up your dredging station.
- Set up your dredging station in order of preparation in separate bowls:
- Flour and salt (whisked together)
- Egg whites (lightly whisked)
- Bread crumbs and herbs (stirred together)
- Parchment or waxed paper lined trays
- Remove the risotto/egg mixture from the fridge. Take a small handful of risotto (yes, in your hand) and push about a teaspoon of the mushrooms and 1 cube of mozzarella into the middle of the risotto. Gently roll the risotto in your hand around the filling and form a ball…like making a meatball.
- Roll the ball in the flour bowl and gently shake loose the excess flour.
- Coat the risotto ball lightly in the egg white, again, shaking loose any excess egg.
- Roll the ball in the breadcrumb/herb mixture (at the risk of repeating myself, shake of the excess).
Frying the Arancini:
- Using a thermometer, heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350F. Keep monitoring the temperature throughout the frying process.
- Working in batches, gently drop the arancini balls into the hot oil, being careful to not overcrowd as this can significantly reduce the temperature of the oil.
- Fry the arancini for about 2 to 3 minutes until they turn a golden colour and turn them until they become a uniform golden colour on all sides (about 5 to 6 minutes total). Mine usually turn out a bit flat on one side but if you use a deeper pot of oil, they’ll turn out rounder.
- Place the cooked arancini on paper towel lined trays and continue to fry the next batch.
- Once all your arancini are fried, plate and serve with marinara sauce, fresh basil and grated parmesan…and don’t forget the wine!