Arancini. A Sicilian specialty. Crunchy, little golden risotto balls. Traditionally filled with a rich slow-cooked tomato and meat ragu. Crumbed and fried to perfection. Pure genius. Incredibly delicious. Perhaps invented by thrifty Italian mamas of yore to make use of leftovers. Google arancini. The variations are endless. I’m sure every self respecting Italian mama has her own special recipe. Handed down through the generations.
Risotto is often on the menu at our house. A veritable staple in the colder winter months. Curiously I have never even thought to attempt arancini at home. So here is my first attempt. A fragrant lemon, leek and saffron risotto. Filled with an oozy, melting mozzarella. Buffalo of course. Crisp. Crunchy. Little balls of deliciousness. Perfect fare for a balmy summer night. The requests are already in. Next time I make risotto I need to double the quantities. So I have the perfect excuse to make these little beauties again.
Arancini With Leek, Lemon and Saffron.
Makes 18 Arancini Balls
For the Risotto
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
a generous pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, white part only, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ cups arborio rice
¼ cup white wine
½ cup parmesan, grated
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
For the Arancini
1 quantity of risotto
1 – 2 cups dried Italian style breadcrumbs
125 grams fresh buffalo mozzarella, cut into 1.5cm cubes
TOAST saffron in a small pan on gentle heat being careful not to burn it.
PLACE stock and toasted saffron threads into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.
IN A large pan, sweat the leeks and garlic in butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or so until the leeks are soft and translucent.
ADD the rice to the butter and leek mixture. Stir over medium heat for a minute or so to ensure the grains are well coated.
ADD the wine and let it evaporate while stirring constantly.
LADLE by ladle slowly add the hot stock, allowing the rice to absorb the stock each time. Stirring constantly for about 20 minutes. When cooked the rice should be tender yet firm to the bite and the risotto creamy. Remove pan from heat.
STIR in the parmesan, lemon juice and zest. Set aside for at least an hour to cool completely.
WHEN ready to shape the arancini add an egg to the cooled risotto. Stir to combine.
USING wet hands roll heaped tablespoons of risotto into balls. Use your thumb to make a large indent in each ball and push in a piece of mozzarella. Mould risotto around the mozzarella to enclose. Place arancini balls in the refrigerator to firm a little for 30 minutes or so.
WHEN ready to fry the arancini, place breadcrumbs in a medium mixing bowl.
ROLL arancini balls in breadcrumbs to coat.
ADD enough oil in a heavy-based saucepan to reach a depth of 5 cm. Heat on medium- high until a cube of bread sizzles as soon as it is added.
FRY arancini balls in batches for a few minutes each side until golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.