Arancini is the name of a traditional Sicilian street food made with Arborio rice, filled and then fried. The filling varies and may include ingredients like prosciutto, Fontina cheese, peas, mushrooms or a combination of some or all. Arancini can be eaten plain or accompanied by a fresh marinara sauce. Arancini means “little oranges” in Italian, due to their shape (round) and golden color. Once again, we have our Sicilian friend Tony to thank for introducing us to arancini.
Thought to have originated in Italy in the 10th century, arancini can be considered frugality at its best. Why? Because they makes use of leftover ingredients. There is no one true recipe for arancini, since the filling choice is left either to the whims of the cook or the surplus ingredients on hand. The only ingredient that does remain constant is the Arborio rice, a short grain starchy rice named after the town where it is produced. The creamy consistency of Arborio allows it to bind together well around the filling ingredients. Arancini are not too difficult or time consuming to make and you can impart your own flair onto them.
Like all Italian foods, arancini are a marvelous contrast of flavors, colors and textures. The intense yellow of the Arborio is due to the use of saffron that flavors the liquid in which the rice is prepared. This intense yellow color is contrasted with the interior fillings which usually have different colors.
The contrast in textures is due to the softness and creaminess of the Arborio rice coupled with the fried crunchy exterior along with the solid bits of filling such as mushrooms, prosciutto, tomatoes, peas, etc… Furthermore, there is also a contrast of flavors: the saltiness of the filling ingredients coupled with the mild sweetness of the saffron-flavored rice. Indeed, arancini are a culinary symphony!
- 2 cups of Arborio rice
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. of saffron
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ cup Parmesan or Pecorino
- 3 eggs beaten
- 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 2 cups of breadcrumbs
- oil for frying
- In a skillet cook the onion in butter until translucent, add the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are tender.
- In a saucepan place the water, olive oil, salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice and the saffron and stir. Cover and turn heat to medium. Cook for about 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes. Make sure the water is absorbed and that the rice is "al dente".
- Transfer rice to a bowl and allow to cool. When rice is cool to the touch, add the Parmesan/Pecorino cheese and mix well. Add 1 beaten egg and mix again.
- Scoop rice using a ½ cup measure and flatten slightly on the palm of your hand. Place a tablespoon of the mushroom mixture in the middle of the rice. Scoop another ½ cup of rice and place on top and roll to form into a ball.
- Prepare two pie plates: one will contain the remaining two beaten eggs, the other will have breadcrumbs.
- Dip each ball into the egg mixture and roll in the breadcrumbs. Place prepared rice balls on a tray or cookie sheet and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to set properly.
- Heat oil to about 375'F. If you don't have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by lightly dipping a rice ball into the oil. If it begins to sizzle, it is ready for frying.
- Fry a few at a time. Arancini should be golden brown, not dark brown.
- Drain on paper towel.
- Serve promptly.
- You can serve your arancini with or without marinara sauce.