Two months, practically, after our trip to Italy earlier this summer, I still have Italy on the brain. More specifically, I still have Italian food on the brain.
I wrote recently about the lovely Italian custom of getting a little nosh when you order a drink in a bar/cafe—sometimes, it’s just a bowl of potato chips, but sometimes you luck into an assortment of housemade nibbles that are just enough to stave off the before-dinner hungries in the most delightful way.
I think arancini fall into that category. Little fried balls of risotto with a bit of cheese inside, they’re a) a great cocktail snack and b) a great way to use leftover risotto. (If you love making risotto, here’s my go-to risotto recipe.)
Since I still have Italy on the brain, I made up a batch of these last weekend. Like any breaded-and-fried thing, they require a bit of time to make. But you’ll end up with a good-sized batch and they’re easily stashed in the freezer and reheated in the oven later. Serve these with good homemade marinara sauce.
arancini (fried risotto balls) recipe
makes about 2 dozen
For the risotto:
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth, kept warm
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
In a large, wide saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers; reduce heat to medium and add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the onion is translucent but not brown. Add rice and stir to coat with oil; cook 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Add warm broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring the risotto so that the rice releases its starch. Drag your spoon across the bottom of the pan; when it leaves a clean trail, you know that the liquid is absorbed and it's time to add another 1/2 cup. Keep cooking, stirring and adding broth until the rice is creamy and tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in parsley and Parmesan; taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer the risotto to a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
For the arancini:
3–4 cups risotto (above recipe, or leftover)
2 oz. whole-milk mozzarella or Fontina cheese, cut into small dice
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (more if needed)
3 cups canola or peanut oil, for frying
Marinara sauce, for serving
Arrange your breading: in a wide, shallow bowl, whisk the egg and water; place the flour and the breadcrumbs in two more wide, shallow bowls. Scoop a small handful of risotto into your palm, press a cube of cheese in the center and form the risotto into a tightly compacted ball around the cheese. Set on a baking pan lined with waxed paper. Repeat with remaining risotto and cheese. Dust each ball thoroughly with flour, tapping off excess. Dip each ball in egg to coat thoroughly, letting excess drip off. Then coat evenly with breadcrumbs. In a deep, heavy pot or fryer, heat the oil to 360°. Fry the arancini, 3 or 4 at a time, until they're deeply browned. Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter. Serve warm with marinara sauce for dipping.