Arancini - Rice Balls
When I was a young girl of 11 or so, I spent time with a kind woman who had just moved to New York from Reggio Calabria, which is a very southern region of Italy. I always enjoy meeting people from different parts of the country or world, and learning their recipes. This recipe wasn't completely foreign to me, but as a kid I remember watching her make these stuffed rice balls and thinking it was magic. They look intimidating but you will be proud of how you too can learn this incredible recipe. And trust me they make a mess, and can be a pain if you don't get the ingredients right
BUT ... they are mouth watering and just amazing, so the process and learning is all worth it!
I've tweaked the recipe over the years to suit my tastes. That is what makes cooking and baking fun, you can change and add or remove ingredients and make it your fantastic creation.
One thing to note, a change that I added through my trial and errors to perfection, is something that you can't really get in stores. Homemade sopressata!
YES! We are that authentically Italian! We make homemade sausage and sopressata every year, amongst other things.
Anyway, I slice the sopressata into very small cubes and add it to the sauce mixture. It's a little spicy and just enhances the flavor fantastically. If you have an Italian specialty store, you can usually find hot sopressata there or just leave it out. When I make them for my Kosher friends, I leave the meat out and just stuff them with the suace/pea mixture and cheese.
Happy rolling ... I can't wait to see your photos of our recipe!
The best Calabrian stuffed Rice Balls you've ever had!
2 Cups Arborio Rice
1 Large Can Tutto Rosso Tomato Sauce
1 finely chopped garlic clove (1 TBSP dried garlic chips)
1 Tsp Salt
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 small bag Frozen/Defrosted Peas
½ cubbed Spicy Sopressata (optional)
2 Tbsp Grated Parmeggiano Reggiano
Whole Beaten Eggs - As Needed (start with 4 at a time)
Seasoned Bread Crumbs - As Needed
Vegetable or Corn Oil - As Needed
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Coating and Frying
The Arancini "shell"
Boil the Arborio rice in plenty of water and salt. Follow the rice/water instructions on the packaging - may change depending on brand
If cooked on a traditional stove top, drain the remaining rice water if there is any left
A little tip, the rice should have no remaining rice water left once cooked. When making recipes that require a drier rice, I like to cook the rice in the microwave so that the rice is nice and dry but not overcooked. The microwave option does not require draining. For microwave cooking, for every cup of rice, double the water (2 cups rice / 4 cups water, for 20 min.)
Move the rice into an oversized bowl. Allow to cool completely and you can manage the rice by hand
To speed up cooling time, you can put the rice in the refrigerator
Once the rice has cooled enough to touch, add the 4 whole eggs, salt, seasoned breadcrumbs, and grated parmeggiano to the bowl with the rice. Incorporate by hand until well mixed and the rice is coated evenly
Make your filling
In a Saucepan on medium heat add olive oil and finely chopped garlic (or garlic chips)
Once the garlic sizzles to a golden brown (do not burn) add the Tutto Rosso Tomato Sauce
Add salt to taste
Steam or defrost peas
At the 15-minute mark of your sauce cooking, add the steamed peas to the sauce and incorporate well
Cook down for 25 minutes. You can add water, ½ cup at a time if the sauce gets too dry or thick. But the sauce should be thick for your Arancini ball filling
Once the sauce is cooked, remove from heat and place in a separate bowl. Add the Parmeggiano Reggiano and mix well. Allow to cool. To speed up cooling time, you can put the sauce in the refrigerator
Once the sauce/pea mixture is cooled, add the chopped sopressata if you are using it
Incorporate into the sauce well
Assemble & Stuff the Arancini
It's time to assemble our Arancini! Coat your hands with the beaten egg mixture, (psst. careful with what you touch when working with raw eggs.
You can use gloves if you wish
- Prepare two metal bowls, and one flat tray.
In one metal bowl, beat 4 whole eggs to start. You will need more eggs to coat your assembled Arancini, but no need to waste eggs.
In the second metal bowl add the seasoned breadcrumbs to coat the stuffed/assembled Arancini.
The Flat tray is to rest the Arancini in prior to frying
Take a tennis ball size handful of rice (you can make these smaller or larger if you desire)
Cup your hand to create a rounded form for the “stuffing” bottom part of the rice ball. With your pointer finger begin to create the hollow center in the ball of rice by pressing into the center. The outside wall of the arancini should be pressing against your palm. You can also use your thumb on the outside of the rice, pointer finger on the inside. Turn the ball of rice in your cupped hand as you do this until you have equal walls of rice all the way around your hollow rice ball spread on the palm of your hands and create a half cup shape of rice - hollow in the center. Try to avoid cracks, but don’t worry too much as the egg and breading will seal the Arancini
Secret tip! These perfect orbs are not easy to master until you’ve made them for a while. So, like most other things there is always an easy way by using our popular pizzeria/restaurant Arancini mold. Saves half the assembly time!
Add the shredded mozzarella cheese first, this will help keep the sauce from soaking through the bottom.
Add the sauce/peas/sopressata (optional) mixture in the center of your hollowed rice ball and cover with more shredded mozzarella cheese
We seal the top of the rice ball/filling with more rice. Hold the Rice ball with one hand and with your free hand take a small handful (golf ball size) of rice and flatten it using your thumb and palm. This is a little tricky because you are single handed.
If you need to put the Rice ball down to do this step, place the Rice ball on something that fits the bottom half of its shape.
Place the rice topper onto the filled rice ball
With two hands, gently but firmly compact the rice ball into the classic rounded shape.
Do not squeeze it so hard where the filling seeps through the Rice ball
If there are areas that begin to crack, coat your hands with a bit more egg and re-form the ball
Gently coat the Arancini with the beaten egg
Immediately roll in the seasoned breadcrumbs. I like to scoop the breadcrumbs and roll the breadcrumbs onto the Arancini while in the cup of my hand. As I gently press the breadcrumbs on to the Arrancini, I also re-form and press together the rice
Place in a large aluminum tray and continue to repeat the assembly steps with the rest of your rice.
The Arancini may crack slightly or feel “wet” before frying. Don’t worry about it, you can re-coat and re-form those with breadcrumbs before putting into the hot oil.
Cooking the Arancini
I prepare the hot oil when I am halfway through assembling the Arancini.
In a deep saucepan or deep fryer, add enough oil to cover the Arancini - based on their size.
Heat the oil on medium high.
Test the oil by dropping a crumb from your breadcrumb mixture into the oil to determine if the oil is ready for frying. The breadcrumb should turn a golden brown within the first 45 seconds to 1 minute depending on your cooking method seconds, and then it is ready
Place the Arancini on a slotted round spatula and carefully add to the hot oil. Depending on the size of the Arancini and the pan you use, you can typically add 4 or five at a time. But do not overcrowd the pan as it will be difficult to turn the Arancini and scoop them out.
Fry until Medium golden brown.
Place on a lined grate to let the oil drip off for 1 minute
Ready to endulge!
Substitutions for the filling:
You can stuff rice balls with really any choice of meat prefer.
You can use chopped ham, prosciutto, or ground beef. For ham and prosciutto add them in place of the sopressata.
For ground beef, Sautee the ground beef in a pan, but only halfway through. Drain the liquid from the ground beef and then add to the sauce mixture at the same time you add the peas.
You can also alter your cheese only options. Add just the sauce (no peas) and shredded mozzarella. Or for a cheese only option, replace the shredded mozzarella with chunks of fresh mozzarella (drained).