Arancini are small Italian rice croquettes traditionally from Sicily. Their name translates as little oranges, which is indicative of their shape, size, and color. In this version, sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese are stirred into the rice, which is then formed into balls and filled with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. After the arancini are fried, the center melts and gets all oozy. For extra flavor, serve these with a simple marinara or tomato sauce for dipping.
What to buy: Arborio is a variety of short-grain Italian rice with a high starch content. It can be found in gourmet grocery stores, Italian markets, or online through BuonItalia. You can substitute Carnaroli if you’re having a hard time finding Arborio. For the wine, use a dry, unoaked white like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
Special equipment: You’ll need a deep-frying/candy thermometer for this recipe.
Game plan: The risotto can be made and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.
You’ll need to make the tomato sauce before you begin.
- Yield: About 30 arancini
- Difficulty: Medium
- Total: 4 hrs 15 mins
- Active: 1 hr 45 mins
For the risotto:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound Arborio rice or Carnaroli (about 2 1/3 cups)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups (1 quart) stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
For the filling:
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
For frying and serving:
- 2 to 2 1/2 quarts vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups fine, unseasoned breadcrumbs
- Basic Tomato Sauce (see Game Plan note) or marinara sauce, warmed for serving
For the risotto:
- Heat the oil in a large wide pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the rice, measured salt, and measured pepper and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, until the rice starts to crackle, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Add the broth and water, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is completely tender and cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano and sun-dried tomatoes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Transfer the risotto to a rimmed baking sheet and spread it into an even layer. Let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the filling:
- When ready to begin frying, drop 1/4-cup portions of the chilled risotto onto a second baking sheet (they do not need to be perfectly formed balls); set aside.
- Combine the mozzarella and basil in a medium bowl. Measure 1-tablespoon portions of the mixture, form it into compact balls with your fingers, and place onto a work surface or large plate. (You should have the same number of rice balls and filling balls.)
- Have a small bowl of water ready. Moistening your hands with the water as needed to prevent sticking, place 1 portion of the risotto in your palm and press it into a 4-inch wide patty. Place 1 portion of the mozzarella mixture in the center of the patty and wrap the risotto tightly around it to completely enclose it, forming a smooth and compact ball.
- Place the risotto balls back onto the second baking sheet and repeat with the remaining portions of risotto and filling; set aside.
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 300°F on a deep-frying/candy thermometer. Heat the oven to 275°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet; set aside.
- Meanwhile, place the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place the eggs in a second medium bowl and lightly beat with a fork to break them up. Finally, place the breadcrumbs in a third medium bowl.
- Working with 1 risotto ball at a time, roll it in the flour until lightly coated, tapping off any excess. Then dip it into the eggs, letting any excess drip off. Finally, roll it in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated. Return it to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining risotto balls.
- When the oil is ready, add 5 of the breaded balls and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown all over and the cheese in the middle is melted, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the arancini to the wire rack and place in the oven. Repeat with the remaining breaded balls. Serve immediately with the warmed tomato or marinara sauce.
Beverage pairing: Nino Franco Prosecco. “Creamy and crisp with a pop of acidity” is a phrase that can describe both the arancini and the wine, which is why they go so well together.