Leave it to the Italians to take a very good thing and make it even better…using leftovers. I first tasted arancini when I was studying abroad in Rome and I’ve been in love ever since. Whenever I see them on a menu here in the States (which is rare but getting more common!) it’s hard for me not to order them even if I know they won’t measure up to the heavenly light and cheesy poofs that were sold by street vendors all over Rome. Up until a few months ago Nathan had never heard of arancini (literally translated to ‘little oranges’) but when I told him that they are balls of creamy risotto stuffed with a cube of mozzarella then rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried he has been open to trying them in restaurants and finally attempting them at home this past weekend.
Traditionally, arancini are made using leftover risotto but since we didn’t have leftover risotto hanging around we dreamed up a thyme and prosciutto risotto to use as our base. Well, to say I went crazy over these might be an understatement! They were better than any arancini that I’ve tried here in the US and they rivaled any arancini I had in Italy. Once the risotto is made the arancini are easy to assemble and fry and the results are incredible. Rich, creamy, and cheesy while at the same time being light and pillowy. Try these and, like me, you will be thanking Italy for yet another culinary gift to the world.
Nathan and I both agreed that, this time, my wine pairing beat his beer pairing. Maybe wine just naturally pairs better with this variety of arancini? This versatile sauvignon blanc was rich and flavorful while being crisp, fruity, and herby…the perfect complement to the salty prosciutto and a light balance for the slightly heavy nature of the arancini. This was one of those pairings that was juuuust right and I would recommend this wine as an accompaniment to seafood, sharp cheeses or any type of salad. This wine also worked well as the wine used in the making of the risotto!
While this beer wasn’t exactly the pilsner I was expecting it still paired quite well with our arancini. This beer poured a light golden color with a sweet aroma as you would expect for a pilsner but the malt and hop flavors are much more prominent than what you get in most pilsners. I would be less surprised if someone told me that this beer was a pale ale instead of a “Czech Style Pilsner” as labeled. That being said, it is still a good beer! The hops and malts balance pretty well and while more flavorful than a pilsner it is still light enough to be easy-drinking and washed down the rich flavors from our arancini quite well.
Loosely based on this recipe
Makes approximately 20 risotto balls
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 cups Risotto with thyme and prosciutto, recipe follows, cooled (you’ll have plenty of leftover risotto!)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1. Pour enough oil in a heavy large saucepan to reach the depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 275 degrees F.
2. Stir the eggs, risotto, Parmesan, and 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs in a large bowl to combine. Place the remaining breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Using about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture for each, form the risotto mixture into 1 3/4-inch-diameter balls. Insert 1 cube of mozzarella into the center of each ball. Roll the balls in the bread crumbs to coat.
3. Working in batches, add the rice balls to the hot oil and cook until brown and heated through, turning them as necessary, about 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the rice balls to paper towels to drain. Let rest 2 minutes. Serve hot.
Prosciutto and Thyme Risotto:
8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
3 Tbs. Fresh Thyme
3 oz. Prosciutto, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan and keep it warm over very low heat.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and then stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes.
4. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes.
5. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth).
6. Stir in the thyme, prosciutto and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.