I love arancini, they are typical Sicilian rice balls and they are often sold as street food. They are said to have been introduced into Sicily in the tenth century by the Arabs. At that time they were simply known as rice balls; only later, the name arancini was coined due to the resemblance of the balls to the Sicilian oranges (the word “arancino” means small orange).
There are multiple versions of arancini in Sicily with different fillings other than the classic ragù. This time I have followed a traditional recipe and, as first attempt, I am very pleased with the result!
- 500 g rice (carnaroli or another risotto rice)
- 70 gr butter
- about 2 litres of hot vegetable stock
- 1 big pinch of saffron
- 50 gr beef mince
- 150 gr pork mince
- 1/2 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 stalk of celery
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 200 ml tomato passata
- 100 gr frozen peas
- 1/2 glass of white wine
- 50 gr caciocavallo (cheddar will work well too!) cut into cubes
- 80 gr grated parmesan
- 6-8 tbsp flour
- bread crumbs
- vegetable frying oil
Make the risotto using the hot stock, add saffron and salt. When ready add butter and stir well. Transfer the risotto into a large bowl to cool.
Arancini are also delicious with leftover risotto, in which case you’ll start the recipe from the next step.
Chop onion, celery and carrot very finely to make the SOFFRITTO for the meat. Add the minced meat, let it cook for 1 minute and blend with wine. Let it dry, then pour in the tomato passata, the bay leaves and the cloves.
Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for at least 50 minutes (the secret to perfect arancini is a thick ragù!). Then add the peas and cook for another 15 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and cloves. Add salt and parmesan. Let it cool.
To form the arancini, scoop a portion of the cooled risotto into your hand. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the filling mixture and 1 cube of cheese into the centre and wrap the risotto around it to seal completely. Repeat with the remaining risotto and filling.
In a small bowl with high sides add the flour and pour a few tablespoons of water to create a thick and sticky batter. Carefully dip each arancino ball into the batter, shaking off any excess, and finally coat the balls in the breadcrumbs, ensuring the rice is completely coated.
Pour the vegetable oil into a deep saucepan and place over a high heat. To test the oil is ready, drop in a few breadcrumbs – if they sizzle and float, it is ready. Lower in the arancini with a slotted spoon and deep-fry until golden and crispy. Transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.
NOW LET'S TALK ABOUT WINE, Agnese recommends... Arancini can be combined with either a white or a red wine, even better if it's a sparkling wine such as Franciacorta Spumante or Prosecco. Lambrusco or Bonarda are also good options, if you prefer red sparkling wines. The bubbles will "clean" your mouth, taking away the taste of grease typical of fried food. I prefer a medium-structured red wine with high acidity. I am a fan of local pairings, so I would match arancini with a Sicilian wine, like Nero d'Avola. This wine is mainly produced in the countryside of Syracuse, Ragusa and Catania, still using a method introduced by the Greeks in the 7th Century BC. Nero d'Avola has good acidity with a strong flavour of spices and red fruits.