Thursday, November 3, 2011

Arancini {Fried Rice Balls}

Wow, it's November already.  Seems like these days people can't wait for November 1st to come so that they can start in on holiday shopping, cooking, and dreaming.  Though I did see my first Christmas themed commercial a couple of weeks ago.  Clearly not everyone can wait until November.  This is definitely my favorite time of year, though living in Southern California makes it hard to feel in the holiday spirit.  It's not nearly cold enough (but I'm not complaining!).

The holiday season always makes me think of traditions.  To me, traditions are what make the holidays so special.  These are just a few of my favorite things about the upcoming couple of months (sing that in your best Julie Andrews voice).  Watching the Army vs. Navy game, hopefully with friends also cheering for Navy to win, but always with noise makers and Navy cups, t-shirts, and pride (Go Navy!  Beat Army!).  Thanksgiving with our good friends, the Reillys.  Starting the Christmas season on Thanksgiving night by watching "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation" after dinner.  Cutting down our Christmas tree from a little, out of the way tree farm (which happens even when I am 9 months pregnant and it's snowing out- very Griswold like).  Pancakes with my boys on Christmas morning.

When I was a girl, our traditions usually revolved around food.  My mom's apple pie making marathons for Thanksgiving.  The huge Christmas Eve feast prepared by my Nana.  Her fried doughnuts on New Year's Eve.  Making the cookies for Christmas whose names only my grandmother could pronounce correctly like the spiced and honey-drenched dardeeds (I don't even know if I've spelled that correctly) or the tiny little struffoli puffs.

Some of our special foods weren't specific to holidays.  Like these rice balls.  There is a fair bit of work and time involved in making them, so it was a rare occasion to see them on the dinner table.  But man, was it ever special when they were.  Crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside with the surprise in the center (a stretchy, gooey bite of mozzarella cheese).  I'm drooling just thinking about them- I might have to thaw out the ones I have in my freezer for lunch.

I thought this would be a good recipe for step-by-step instructions.  Not too many people have heard of arancini (which means little orange in Italian, a reference to the size and shape of the balls).  But if you've made a big batch of risotto and have some left over, you're halfway there.  You might as well give them a try.  Maybe you'll start a new family tradition of your own.

Arancini {Fried Rice Balls}
Start by preparing a batch of basic risotto, such as the one I posted here (leaving out the tomatoes, squash, corn, and herbs).  You can easily double the amount of risotto if you'd like to make a lot of the arancini for a party or to freeze for later.

You'll need:
1 batch of cooked risotto
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg ( I like the nutmeg, so I usually add closer to the 1/2 tsp amount)
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
enough vegetable oil to fill a deep pot about halfway

Prepare the risotto and then spread it out on a baking sheet and refrigerate it until completely cooled.  Meanwhile, cut the mozzarella into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes.  When the risotto is cool enough to handle comfortably, scoop it into a large bowl, add the nutmeg (it's that thing that'll make you go "hmm") and mix well.  If your risotto is a bit dry, you can add an egg to the mixture, but it's not necessary if there is enough moisture to hold the rice together.

Before rolling out the rice balls, begin heating the oil.  Set a large pot over medium high heat and fill several inches, but no mare then halfway, with the oil.  Use a candy or deep fry thermometer to monitor the temperature.  You want the oil to be at 350 degrees.  Cooler than that and the arancini will be oily and soggy.  Too hot and the breadcrumbs will burn.

Using wet hands (keep a bowl of water nearby), scoop out enough rice to make a large meatball-sized ball.  Make a well in the center of the rice and press a cube of mozzarella into it.  Fold the rice over the cheese and press it gently into a ball.

Working with very gentle hands, roll the balls in the breadcrumbs and set them on a baking tray to await frying while you continue rolling.

In batches of 2 or 3, gently lower the arancini into the oil and fry for several minutes until the breadcrumbs are nicely golden.  Make sure to let the oil return to 350 degrees in between batches.  It will bubble quite vigorously when the rice balls are cooking, so be careful not to overfill the pot.

Drain the arancini on paper towels and serve warm so that the mozzarella inside is still oozy and stretchy.  They make a lovely light dinner served with a tomato salad.  You could also cool them completely and them freeze them for several months.


  1. I LOVE arancini!!! Haven't ever made them though. Thanks for the idea! I'm stumbling this for sure.

  2. Renee @ The Way to My Family's HeartNovember 6, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    It's a bit of work to make them, but if you have the help of a couple of friends, it can go quickly and, man, are they good!