Arancini are one of those delights that one stumbles upon from time to time. It is a classic example of ‘poor’ cooking from the south of Italy. Various regions of Italy claim it as their own, but like bubble and squeak in Britain, it was probably a common sense solution for left over food, and the regions of Italy all have their own versions of it.
Keep that in mind, because in Sicily, they put meat in the mix, and elsewhere you will find different cheeses involved, with a cube wrapped in rice mix, and so there is not really a definitive recipe as such, but more a solution for making the best of what you have to hand.
I have made versions that have dried mixed herbs, instead of those listed below. I have also made some with a distinctly Asian flavour with curry powder in them. All arancini freeze very well, both before the final frying and after, when they just need reheating in the microwave.
Makes 16, to serve four generously.
25 g/1 oz/1 tablespoon unsalted butter
200 g/7 oz/1 cup rice cooked
500 ml/16 fl oz/2 cups stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
salt and pepper
50 g/2 oz/2 1/2 tablespoons grated cheese (parmesan or cheddar)
1½ tsp ground allspice
15 g/1/2 oz/1 tablespoon chopped dill
10 g/ 1/2 oz chopped mint or 1½ tsp dried mint
About 50 g/2 oz/2 1/2 tablespoons plain flour, for rolling
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150 g/5 oz/1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
About 300 ml/ 10 fl oz/1 1/4 cup sunflower oil, for frying
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges, to serve
1.Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat, add the onion and garlic, and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened..
2.Add a little salt, to your taste, and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for five minutes more, stirring occasionally.
3.Drain most of the oil from the pan (alternatively, transfer the mixture to a colander and leave it to drain for a few minutes,
4. Add the cheese to the warm rice with the allspice, dill, fresh or dried mint, and some more black pepper. Stir, then
5. Use your hands to shape the mixture into balls weighing about 50g each, the size of small golf balls.
6. Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Roll the rice-and-meatballs first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, so they’re well coated.
7. Pour enough sunflower oil into a medium saucepan pan so that it rises 1cm up the sides. Put the pan on a medium-high heat and, once it’s up to temperature (test by dropping in a cube of bread: it should sizzle and turn golden and crisp in about 40 seconds), fry the balls in batches for four to five minutes, turning so they colour and crisp on all sides. Transfer to a kitchen paper-lined plate and keep somewhere warm while you cook the remaining arancini.
8. Serve hot with a wedge of lemon on the side, or with a suitable sauce such as spicy tomato