This recipe is a must for anyone who loves food, especially those who love Italian cuisine’s flavor elements. I imagine it would also appeal to those who love Tapas of the Spanish Variety because of the flavor crossover provided by the saffron.
This dish may seem challenging, but it’s very fun to make. I also LOVE that you can either use the filling recipe below OR make a filling of your choice – what meats and cheeses do you have sitting in your fridge? Well, guess what? With a little cleverness and imagination, it could be wrapped up neatly in a lovely Arancini, out of the frying pan, and into your eager mouth in no time.
For this version pictured above, I used a leftover bolognese sauce I had frozen with its carrots, tomato goodness, and a variety of meats (Guanciale and braised beef cheek) chopped finely – combined with some mozzarella and fontina and some leftover roasted poblanos. You can make your filling or follow the recipe below – but whatever you use, make sure the filling tastes good to you before you stuff it into the rice ball.
This recipe makes about 2 dozen rice balls
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
- 1/2 small carrot, minced
- 1/2 rib celery, minced
- 3 oz. ground beef
- 3 oz. ground pork
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2 tsp. tomato paste
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1/4 tsp. crushed saffron
- 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups bread crumbs (include some panko bread crumbs for an extra crispy version)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- Canola oil for frying
Filling: Heat 1 tbsp. Olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook, often stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add beef and pork and cook, often stirring, until browned, 10–12 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce and paste, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, occasionally stirring, until thickened, 45–50 minutes. Transfer meat filling to a bowl and let cool; refrigerate until chilled.
Rice: Heat remaining oil in a 2-qt. Saucepan over medium-high heat. Add red onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Stir in saffron and 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Spread the rice out on a plate and let it cool. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, eggs, and 1/2 cup water in a shallow bowl until smooth; place bread crumbs in another bowl and set both aside.
To assemble, place 1 heaping tablespoon of rice in the palm of your hand; flatten it into a disk. Place 1 tsp. Chilled meat filling in the center of the rice disk and add another small scoop of rice over the top. Form rice around the filling to encase it completely; press gently to form a ball. Roll the ball in the batter and bread crumbs until evenly coated. Transfer to a parchment paper—lined baking sheet; repeat with remaining rice, meat mixture, batter, and bread crumbs. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to firm up.
Pour oil into a 6-qt. Dutch oven (I love the new green color Le Creuset just added) to a depth of 2″ and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 360°. Working in batches, add rice balls to oil and fry until golden and heated, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rice balls to paper towels; let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
If you need more detailed instructions – click here to view Saveur magazine’s step-by-step guide. This is where I learned how myself.