Arancine – Italian Rice balls. Saffron infused rice balls with either meat or vegetarian fillings is the perfect party appetizer or serve with a salad, for a meal.
Living in NYC for most of my life, I have a close relationship with the cuisines of many cultures. Although in recent years we have had different waves of immigration, dating back to the 19th century, Italians is one of the largest immigrant groups that came to the United States with many of them settling in New York. We have not one but two annual Italian festivals – San Gennaro in Manhattan’s Little Italy and Ferragosto in the Bronx’s Little Italy. If you ever come to visit NYC, although it takes a little more effort, I suggest you taking the train up to the Bronx to visit their Little Italy. The one in Manhattan has largely been swallowed up by the expanding Chinatown and is very generic. For more authentic and traditional Italian food and culture, you really need to hike up to the Bronx.
Most of the Italian immigrants came from Sicily and the southern rural areas of Italy. Although the first wave of immigrants came to escape poverty, the following waves often came from Sicily to escape violence. The famed Cosa Nostra (if you’ve ever watched the Godfather movies, you’ll know what I’m talking about) made the small island a very dangerous place. Unfortunately, the Italian mafia also eventually came over to the United States, but still for most Italians who wanted to live in peace and were not directly involved with the mafia, New York and the larger United States became a safer refuge.
Sicily also has a history of Arab rule and for this reason, you will often find Arab influence in their foods like the heavy use of saffron in this risotto. Dried fruits and nuts often find their way into foods and curing vegetables is common. They also speak their own dialect, which is why what is known as Arancini in mainland Italy is known as Arancine in Sicily.
This week I have been presenting street foods from the Mediterranean and Arancine is one of the most popular street foods in Sicily. I have presented it below with two of the most common fillings – one Vegetarian and one with meat. Therefore, this recipe is adaptable for everyone and you might want to consider making them for your holiday party. Although it is more tedious, you can make them smaller for little party appetizers.
IN THE MAKING
Other Italian Recipes
- Chickpea Asiago Arancini
- Zucchini Proscuitto Grissini
- Penne alla Vodka
- Fiorentini – Gluten Free Chocolate Cookies
- Sbrisilona – Almond Cookie
- Italian Orange Cake
Serve your Aracine will the extra fillings!
Arancine – Sicilian Rice Balls
- Risotto Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 2 cups white wine
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons butter salt to taste
- Ragu Filling Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 1 lb. ground turkey or beef
- 25 oz. marinara sauce
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Mozzarella Filling Ingredients:
- 7 oz. fresh mozzarella diced
- ¾ cup frozen green peas defrosted
- 1 ½ cups marinara sauce
- Other Ingredients:
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 egg whites
- oil for frying
- To make the risotto, heat oil in a large pot.
- Add onion and cook until onions are softened and turn translucent.
- Add rice and sauté for a few minutes until it is well coated with the oil.
- Add saffron and half of the wine. Cook on medium heat, stirring often – almost continuously – until most of the wine has been absorbed by the rice. Add the rest of the wine and repeat the procedure.
- Add stock a little at a time (about ¾ - 1 cup) and cook, stirring almost continuously until most of the stock has been absorbed. Repeat this procedure with each addition of stock until rice is tender and slightly creamy.
- Add cheese, butter and salt. Stir to combine.
- Transfer to a cookie sheet and spread in a thin layer to cool.
- Meanwhile, let’s make the fillings.
- To make the ragu filling, heat oil in a large skillet.
- Add onion and garlic. Saute until softened.
- Add ground meat and cook until meat is cooked through. Add marinara sauce and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add parsley, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- To make the mozzarella filling, combine mozzarella, peas and marinara. Stir to combine.
- To make the arancine, with oiled hands take about an egg sized portion of risotto and form a concave shell in your hand. Place a little of either filling inside. Take a little more risotto to form the cover and form into a well sealed ball. Repeat. You should get 10 rice balls.
- Heat enough oil for deep frying.
- Roll rice balls in egg white and then in flour-breadcrumb mixture and place in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown.
- Serve with extra filling or plain marinara sauce.