You’re in the mood for a hearty Italian dinner. Something cheesy and savory, with a warmth and comfort to match its complex and balanced flavors. You turn to risotto, one of our go-to impress your friends dishes, but like any time we’ve ever made risotto, you make more than you need for that meal alone. Instead of letting that extra risotto go to waste or just reheating it in the microwave the next day, you can transform it into something amazing. Seriously, the dish we’re going to be exploring today needs to be more known, because it’s delicious!
Perfect as a snack on the go, as finger foods for a party, or as a sit down, fork and knife treat, arancini is a fried ball of cheesy goodness. Not only is it tasty, it’s fairly simple to make while creatively utilizing leftovers, preventing food waste.
The History of Arancini
Arancini has a long history that draws from the history of the region mostly connected with the dish — Sicily. The island at the toe of the boot that is Italy has changed hands between a number of empires over the years, each imparting their culture on the people who call the island home. Arancini likely traces its creation back to the time of Arab rule over the island, between the 9th and 11th centuries. At this time, saffron-seasoned rice was rolled into balls and flavored with lamb. It’s theorized that arancini may have begun looking closer to what we’re familiar with today around the 12th century, when the rice balls began to be breaded and fried. That said, there’s some debate over the origins of arancini.
There’s also a running debate over the actual name of the dish. Arancini is the plural of arancino, which translates to “a small orange.” In other areas of Sicily, they use the feminine version of the word, arancina (or pluralized as arancine). In Northern Italy, where risotto is popularized and likely closest to the arancini you may find in the United States, they call it arancini.
The Basics of an Arancini
With arancini, you can really tweak and customize the dish with numerous opportunities to add your own creative flair. Traditionally, arancini has a filling, often a shredded meat or cheese filling. Many modern interpretations of the dish are simply breaded and fried balls of risotto, relying on the fillings of the risotto to take the place of the traditional fillings. But first, you have to make the risotto.
Risotto di Medicareful
- 1 ½ cups of Arborio rice
- 4-5 cups of chicken broth
- 1 cup of mushrooms, washed and cut
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
- ½ cup of peas, fresh or thawed if frozen
- 1 cup of white wine
- 5 tbsp of butter
- ½ cup of shredded Parmesan
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- In a saucepan, begin warming the broth over low heat.
- In a large, deep sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter over medium heat.
- Once the butter is melted, add the diced onion, mushrooms, garlic, and peas in, and sauté until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. (Only a few minutes are necessary.)
- Remove the ingredients from the pan and set them aside.
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil and return to medium heat.
- Add the Arborio rice, and lightly toast the rice for a minute or two, just to add a little color.
- Add the white wine to the rice, stirring occasionally until the wine is absorbed into the rice.
- Begin ladling in roughly half a cup of warmed broth into the rice.
- Stir the rice and broth occasionally until the broth is fully absorbed.
- Ladle in another half cup of broth, repeating until the rice is at the desired texture. (It may not take all the broth to reach al dente or it may take more. If you need more, make sure to warm it first.)
- While you’re waiting for the broth to be absorbed, season the scallops with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the remaining butter, the vegetables, and the parmesan cheese with the risotto once the broth is fully absorbed.
- Season with salt, pepper, and additional cheese and butter to your taste.
- Serve immediately for best results.
Once you’ve made the risotto, eat what you can, but you’ll want to reserve about half of it for the next night. By a rough estimate, you’ll want to save around two cups-worth of risotto. Put it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, you can prepare whatever filling you desire. For this recipe, we’ll be keeping it simple and using ciliegine (fresh mozzarella balls that are roughly the size of a cherry) or perlini (even small mozzarella balls). Once you’ve formed the ball, just dredge in flour, dip in beaten eggs, and cover in breadcrumbs.
When it comes to frying, you have a few choices. Traditionally, you’d fry them in a neutral oil at around 350°F until they’re crispy and brown. To make them a bit lighter in calories, you can also try an airfryer or even the oven at the same temperature. If you go one of those routes, we do suggest lightly covering the arancini with a cooking spray to help them crisp up a little.
Arancini di Medicareful
- 2 cups of leftover Risotto di Medicareful
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp of dried basil
- ½ tbsp of dried Italian parsley
- 1 tsp of dried thyme
- 1 tsp of salt
- ½ tsp of pepper
- An 8 oz. package of ciliegine mozzarella
- ½ cup of your favorite red sauce for dipping
- Evenly mix the basil, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper into the flour and breadcrumbs in separate bowls and beat the eggs in a third.
- Flatten about ¼ cup of risotto into your hand and place one ball of mozzarella.
- Form the risotto into a ball around the mozzarella.
- Dredge ball in flour before dipping it in the beaten egg.
- Cover in breadcrumbs and set aside.
- Repeat this until you’ve used all the leftover risotto.
- If you’re frying in oil, fill a deep 3-quart saucepan about halfway with a neutral oil. For other methods, skip this step.
- Using a cooking thermometer, heat the oil to 350°F.
a. If baking in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F.
b. For an airfryer, simply set the arancini in the fryer and set to 350°F.
- While oil heats, add your favorite red sauce, like marinara, to a smaller saucepan and heat over low.
- Once the oil is up to heat, gently add a few arancini, being careful not to overcrowd the saucepan.
- Fry until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.
a. If you’re baking or airfrying, turn the arancini halfway through cooking.
- Remove the arancini from the oil with a slotted spoon or spider, setting aside on a paper towel-covered plate to drain.
- Add the other arancini to the oil and cook.
- Once the arancini are all cooked and the red sauce is hot, serve!