What is arancini? Arancini a traditional Sicilian street food. It’s rice, filled and then fried. The fillings vary from prosciutto, Fontina cheese, peas, mushrooms or a mix. Pair it with marinara sauce and you’ve got a creamy, carby appetizer to remember.
Originating in 10th century Italy, arancini can be considered frugality at its best.
Why? Because they use up leftovers. There is no one true arancini recipe. The only ingredient that remains constant is the Arborio rice. The creamy consistency of Arborio allows it to bind together around the fillings. Arancini are not too difficult or time consuming to make and you can impart your own flair onto them.
Indeed, arancini are a culinary symphony!
Like all Italian foods, arancini balls are a marvelous contrast of flavors, colors and textures. The intense yellow of the Arborio is owed to saffron. The contrast in textures comes from the creaminess of the Arborio rice coupled with the fried crunchy exterior plus fillings. Furthermore the saltiness of the fillings and the mild sweetness of the saffron-flavored rice.
If you want to explore some additional Italian dishes that I love to make here are a few to try. This orecchiette with shrimp, fennel and arugula can be a great dish to feed a crowd and the fennel seeds add a nice savory flavor. You will love this creamy rich polenta with sausage and mushrooms. Here is my version of a tasty marinara sauce that goes well with just about any kind of pasta.
Arancini - Sicillian Rice Balls
Here is a classic Italian dish from Sicily. This 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.
Approxiamtely 2 cups 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 1/2 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 1/2 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.