Kate's Cuisine

Jul 24 2017

Rice Balls (Arancini)

Rice Balls (Arincini)

I had my first rice balls about a year ago. My grandma was in the hospital (she’s much better now, thankfully!) and one of the only shining lights was that there was this fantastic Italian grocery store my mom knew about close by. We picked up a bunch of good stuff, along with ready-made rice balls to along with our dinner one night. I bit into my first one, and I was in love. I knew I’d be making these again and again at home. But what I didn’t know was that while I would try and try, it wouldn’t be until nearly a full year later when I finally mastered them. Once you know a few tricks, they’re easy to pull together. But without those tricks, you’ll end up with a lot of rice that’s fallen apart and been left swimming in random places throughout your breading station.

First, start with risotto. Plain old rice is not going to work here; I think it has something to do with the starch content of Arborio rice that other rice just doesn’t have. But even though I don’t know exactly why regular rice doesn’t work, I do know that it doesn’t. It took me a couple of tries to figure that out. If you don’t have left risotto sitting in the fridge, click on the link to find a Parmesan Risotto recipe that would work perfectly. Which brings me to my next point….

The risotto needs to be cold. The dish actually stemmed from Italians simply trying to use up their leftover risotto, which they wouldn’t heat up before preparing the rice balls. Again, I’ve tried to just make risotto and once it cooled enough to be handled, I’d try forming it into balls. Does not work, my friends. It needs to sit in the fridge for at least two hours, or in the freezer for 30 minutes, before it’s cold enough to hold a ball shape.

Third and finally, I’ve seen Giada De Laurentiis make her rice balls using a breading station complete with flour, milk and seasoned bread crumbs. That would make the most sense to me, too, but I find sometimes the rice balls simply don’t hold up to all that handling and this is when they can start to fall apart. Even if you’re using risotto and even if it’s cold when you start. Again, I don’t know why, but I know it happens. I start with this setup, but if I find the balls are a bit delicate, I simply just rolls them in milk and bread crumbs and sometimes even, just bread crumbs alone. The picture above is a mixture of all three and honestly, you couldn’t tell the difference between one or another.

One last word before we get on with the rice balls recipe. Traditionally these are stuffed with meat and sauce (often a ragu) and peas. I was just trying to whip up a quick and delicious lunch so I did away with all of that and didn’t even put a hunk of cheese in the middle (Giada would be so ashamed.) They were still amazing, especially with the quick tomato sauce I made on the side for dunking. YUM!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups leftover risotto $1.21
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten $0.17
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour $0.14
  • 1 cup milk (or a few eggs, if you prefer) $0.28
  • 2 cups bread crumbs $0.84
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese $1.50
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil $0.20
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano $0.20
  • 1 teaspoon salt $0.01
  • Oil, for deep frying

Total cost $4.55
Cost per rice ball $0.40

Directions:

1.) Stir the beaten egg into the leftover risotto and place in the fridge while setting up your breading station.

2.) Set up the breading station by placing the flour in a large mixing bowl, the milk in another, and the bread crumbs in another. To the bread crumbs add the Parmesan cheese, basil, oregano, and salt and mix well.

3.) Take about 2 tablespoons of the risotto mixture and form into a ball. Once it holds its shape, dredge it in the flour,lightly shaking off the excess. Drop it into the milk (or eggs) and roll to ensure the entire rice ball is coated. Let the excess drip off and then roll the ball around in the seasoned bread crumbs. Move to a plate and repeat with the remaining risotto.

4.) Heat the oil up to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit over medium-high heat. If you don’t have a fryer thermometer, place the handle of a wooden spoon straight up, but touching the bottom of the pan. If small bubbles rise rapidly along the handle, the oil is hot enough.

5.) Drop three or four rice balls into the oil at one time and let them fry until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn with a slotted spoon once during cooking. Remove to paper towels to drain, lightly salt again if you wish, and continue frying remaining rice balls.

6.) Warm up some tomato sauce to serve on the side then serve, and enjoy!

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