Arancini means “little oranges” in Italian and these Sicilian treats are well loved and enjoyed by many. As is typical of Italian food each household has it’s own particular version. This is my version adapted from the recipe given to me by my lovely Calabrian cousin. Her method of mixing part of the sauce through the rice is something I have never seen on another recipe and I believe it is the reason these arancini are the tastiest I have tried.
Traditionally arancini are filled with ragu`, peas and mozzarella cheese. The ragu` can be your favourite or you can follow my recipe but keep in mind that the ragu` needs to be well made, with the best ingredients and very flavoursome. The ragu` is the make or break of your arancini and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
These arancini are so popular in my family I am often requested to make them. I love the look of delight when my children follow their nose to the kitchen to investigate what I am cooking and discover their favourite is on the menu. This is also a great recipe to get your children involved in.
Now, first allow yourself at least three or even four hours to prepare this recipe because the rice really needs to cool down and the ragu` should be simmered long and slow. The ragu` can be prepared the day before to make it easier.
Begin with the ragu`. I always make a big batch and freeze the extra for a quick pasta meal.
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil ( don’t substitute dried – it really has no flavour)
1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves ( or 1 or 2 tablespoons dried rosemary)
3 teaspoons ground allspice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup concentrated chicken stock (or2 teaspoons chicken stock powder plus 1 cup water)
1 cup concentrated beef stock (or2 teaspoons beef stock powder plus 1 cup water)
freshly ground pepper
salt to taste
To finish off:
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen peas
Heat the oil and fry off the onion and garlic. Once golden add the bacon followed by the minces. Stir and fry to brown, breaking up the meat well. Add the remaining ingredients along with a cup full of water. Bring to the boil then turn down and simmer slowly for 2 hours. Now, what I do is at this point is take 4 good cups of the ragu` and transfer this to a smaller pan with 1/2 cup peas. The remainder can be cooled and frozen for later use. The portion that has been removed is reduced for about 1/2 hour until it is thickened.Don’t forget to taste as you go and adjust the seasoning. This I put into a coarse sieve over a small bowl to collect the excess sauce. You should have about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid flavoursome sauce to add to your cooked rice.
Now to cook the rice. Are you still with me? Good, keep up, it’s worth it!
Take 750g arborio rice and wash well and drain. In a large saucepan bring to boil 4 1/2 cups good chicken stock add the washed rice, stir and bring back to the boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to the lowest cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to lift the lid. After the cooking time turn the heat off. Don’t lift the lid! Let the rice sit for a further 10 minutes. After this time you should have perfectly cooked moist rice that clings together well. I cook on my largest gas ring then set the flame on the lowest and also use a flame diffuser. Now tip your rice into a large flat baking dish fold through 45g butter then leave to cool. Once at room temperature add two beaten eggs, 1 cup grated parmesan cheese and the sauce
strained off from your ragu`. Mix well.
It should look a bit like this.
You’ll need 300g good mozzarella cheese cut into large cubes.
Now for the the messy bit and lots of fun. So, assemble all the components required and call the other members of your household in to join the fun.
Have ready rice, meat and cheese. Then beat 2 eggs with 1/2 cup milk in a shallow bowl and place lots of dried breadcrumbs onto a flat plate and you are ready to begin.
Wet your hands – this will make moulding the arancini easier. Take about a tablespoon of rice flatten the middle in the palm of your hand. Add a teaspoonful of meat and cube of cheese.
Add a little more rice on top while moulding the edges of rice around the filling. Press well together making sure no filling shows. Add more rice if necessary. With this quantity of rice you should get 26 or 27 arancini. Too many? Never too many arancini because they are delicious the next day heated slowly in the oven.
Pass it on down the assembly line ( hopefully you have a helper) dip the rice ball into the beaten egg mixture then roll in breadcrumbs pressing well.
Refrigerate your arancini for about 30 minutes. Now, your almost finished. Stay with me!
Heat some light olive oil in pan to shallow fry as I do. You can deep fry if that’s what you prefer.
All that is left to do now is to bring them to the table and wait for the oooh’s and aaah’s as your family and friends tuck into the most flavoursome arancini anyone has ever tried!