What’s cooking :
For a year I was lucky to call Montreal’s little Italy my home. I lived 2 minutes away for the best food market of the island and delis selling fresh pasta, ravioli, antipasti and Prosciutto di Parma were my regular grocery shops. I was often tempted to opt for their ready meals instead of preparing something myself and I indulged in “Melanzane alla Parmigiana”, lasagna or arancini. I have a soft spot for the latter, having discovered these crispy stuffed balls on a school trip to Rome in my teens. I remember the thrill of biting into something I had no clue about, not being able to share more than a few English words with my hosts, and how excited I got when the crunchy, yet creamy balls fell apart in my mouth. It was nothing like I had ever experienced before.
Stuffing and shaping
Breading and frying
Making this recipe is not hassle free I must admit, you will have a fair bit of clean up to do. But there’s really no better way of eating risotto leftovers. Embracing its dark side, arancini gives the slightly over-cooked day old rice, or pasta, some texture with crispy breadcrumbs. The heat releases the creaminess but keeps it enclosed in its golden crust, protecting its melting core. This is really something to discover.
Always wondered why big arancini had a conic shape? Me too! And I’m now the proud owner of my own theory. It came to me after my babies came out looking like little pyramids following frying my very first batch. It’s true that unless you deep fry balls it’s pretty much impossible to keep their round shape, each side gets flatten while it cooks. So probably the arancini were pan-fried back in the day and that to stick with tradition they are still shaped like cones although deep-frying is more convenient. All right all right, I might be making this up but it makes sense, no?
- 1/2 Orzo risotto recipe (recipe here)
- 1 egg
- 20g + 30g Breadcrumbs
- 50g fresh Mozzarella
- 200ml Rapeseed oil
- Parmesan (optional)
- 1/2 tbsp Olive oil
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 1 can chopped Tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp Oregano
- Turn the oven on to 108C/350F.
- In a bowl, mix the risotto, the egg and 20g of breadcrumbs, making sure everything is well combined.
- Cut the mozzarella into 4 equal pieces and divide the risotto mix into 4 equal portions too.
- With you hands slightly damped, take a quarter of risotto mix and form a loose ball. With your thumb, create a dent in the middle of it and place the mozzarella piece in the cavity. Close the hole with risotto and form the ball more tightly. Repeat with the 3 remaining portions.
- Put about 30g of breadcrumbs in a bowl and roll each ball in it until evenly coated in crumbs.
- Heat the rapeseed oil in a deep frying-pan. Fry the arancini until golden brown on each side. Transfer to a baking tray and finish the cooking in the oven, until the tomato sauce is ready.
- Carefully pour the frying oil into a small ramekin and roughly clean the pan with a few kitchen towel sheet.
- Put back on a high heat. Add the olive oil and fry the crushed garlic gloves until golden. Add the can of tomato and quickly cover with a lit, it will splash everywhere. Shake the pan a bit until the bubbling calms down, remove the lid and stir. Add the oregano and season with a good pinch of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, until thick and sweet.
- Plate 2 arancini on a bed of tomato sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan shavings. Enjoy with a fresh green salad.
- Don’t try to keep your hands clean, it’s just not going to happen. Instead of fighting it, go with it and your balls will shape up in no time.