January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!
New year, new goals. I finally joined the online community Daring Kitchen and this month participated in my first recipe challenge. There are two challenges each month, cooking and baking, each hosted by a different blogger. This month’s recipe challenge for cooking was arancine (also spelled arancini), something quite new to me but also something that fit in well with my new-found love for risotto.
I’ve only had arancine one other time, and that was while wandering around New York City’s Little Italy. I wasn’t actually sure what I was eating when my dad handed me one, I just knew it was fried and involved rice, and what’s not to love about that?
My experience making my own arancine was…interesting. And messy. The results were tasty but not pretty. I suppose taste is better than looks in the end, but it was a little disheartening to see my nicely formed risotto balls become more and more misshapen along the way. Would I make this again? Yes, but I would either make tiny, appetizer size arancine or I would involve the whole family and turn it into an afternoon activity.
Making the risotto isn’t hard. I’ve already talked about why I love risotto so much on this blog, here and here. Making risotto has turned into sort of a zen thing for me. I either read a book while doing it, or catch up on my favorite podcasts. But actually turning the risotto into arancine proved challenging. I probably just need more practice.
Traditional arancine are fried in oil on the stove, but as I don’t have a heavy pot suitable for frying, I chose to bake mine instead. This recipe make a large batch but can easily be halved.
Cheesy Baked Arancine
Makes about 12 large arancine
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 T butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cups short-grain rice (such as Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano)
- about 5 cups chicken stock (have more on hand, as the amount you need is never the same, or use veggie stock)
- 1 1/2 tsp saffron threads
- 2 T dried basil
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- salt, to taste
For the Arancine
- about 3 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped into about 1/2 inch cubes (12 total)
- about 3 oz goat cheese, similarly cubed (12 total)
- 1 egg, beaten
- olive oil in a spray can/bottle
Make the risotto: In a medium saucepan, warm chicken stock. Keep the stock heating on low while cooking your risotto. In a large saucepan, sweat onion in olive oil and butter over medium heat. When it begins to turn translucent, add rice and allow rice grains to turn translucent as well. You do not want the onion or rice to brown.
Add just enough liquid to cover the rice. Stir occasionally until most of the liquid is gone. When you can draw a line through the rice and see the bottom of the pan without it immediately being covered again, add more liquid. Add the saffron threads and basil with your second addition of chicken stock. Continue doing this until the rice is tender. You may not have used all of your liquid, but stop cooking when the rice tastes fully cooked. When rice is done, remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese. Salt to taste.
Spread risotto on a sheet pan to allow to cool more quickly.
Make the arancine: Preheat your oven to 375ºF.
Take a large scoop of risotto (this will make about 12 balls in total) and form into a ball. Then use your thumb to open up the ball and insert 1 cube of mozzarella and one cube of goat cheese. I used a piece of plastic wrap to help shape my arancine. Roll the arancine first in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Spray liberally with olive oil. Repeat until you have 12 large arancine. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, turning if necessary.