One of the best Sicilian delights are called “arancini,” which means “little oranges” (also called “suppli”). I often see arancini on menus in Italian restaurants around the world, and they are usually called Sicilian rice balls. Arancini are made by forming plain risotto into either conical, or round shapes, with mozzarella in the center. Alternatively, mozzarella, peas and tomato sauce are hidden in the middle of other types of arancini. However, all of them are dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried…can you just picture that? Here, I’ll help you… These are sold as snack foods at pizza shops, bars and similar places in Sicily, and in Southern Italy and they may have “travelled” throughout Italy now, but I never saw them anywhere in the northern part of the country. Don’t be intimidated by these delectable treats as they are quite easy to make, as long as the rice is made properly. Don’t try to use regular rice, or boiled or steamed rice as it will not stay together when you try to form a ball or cone (I learned this the hard way). You will be rewarded for your efforts, believe me.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE RISOTTO 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 cups (15 oz) Arborio rice (the best rice to use is Carnaroli) 4 oz white wine Approximately 30 oz chicken stock Salt, to taste
INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING Mozzarella, cut into 1/2″ to 3/4″ cubes
Marinara or bolognese sauce (optional)
Cooked peas (optional)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE COATING All-purpose flour 2 eggs, beaten Breadcrumbs More tomato sauce, to serve (optional)
Basil leaves, for garnish
Make the risotto by adding the rice to the heated oil in a large saute pan, and stirring quickly for one or two minutes. Quickly add the white wine while stirring. With the heat on medium high, begin adding the chicken stock a little at a time, and continuously stirring, until all the stock has been used and the rice is cooked, yet still al dente. Taste; adding salt if necessary. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add an egg to the risotto and mix well, then refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.
TO MAKE THE ARANCINI
Place some rice in your hand and flatten it into your cupped hand, but don’t make it too thin, or the filling will ooze out. Place a piece of mozzarella, and/or a little tomato sauce (and peas, if using) in the center of the cupped rice. Next, close the rice around the filling and shape into a ball. If you’d like to make conical shapes, flatten the bottom of the ball, and make the top more pointed. Now, roll the shaped arancini in flour. Then, roll them in the beaten egg. Finally, roll in the breadcrumbs. Set aside until all of the rice has been used. Heat some oil in a deep fryer, pot or wok until it is very hot.
Add the arancini, and cook quickly, turning often so they don’t brown too much on one side. If serving immediately, fry for a few minutes, so the cheese will melt in the center. (If you’d like to serve them at a later time, remove them quickly after just browning; then, just before serving, place them on a baking sheet and re-heat in the oven at 400ºF for 5 to 10 minutes.) Remove from oil and place on paper towel lined plate or tray. Serve plain, or place on tray with a little tomato sauce and garnish with basil. You can also serve them with a little extra sauce on the side.
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