Arancini are small stuffed and fried rice balls. They are one of Italy’s original street foods. Leftover risotto can be used in place of the cooked Arborio; in fact, using leftover rice was at least partly responsible for the origin of the dish. Purchased pesto and a favorite tomato sauce can be used in place of the Blanched-Basil Pesto and the Quick Tomato Sauce, but it’s useful to have good pesto and tomato sauce recipes on hand.
• 3 cups cooked, cooled Arborio rice*
• 1-1/2 cups Blanched-Basil Pesto (recipe follows)
• 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably bocconcini, cut into 16 pieces
• 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
• Corn, peanut, canola, or any neutral oil for deep-frying
• Quick Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
Line platter with parchment paper. In large bowl, stir rice and pesto together until combined. Divide rice into 16 equal portions (about 1/4 cup each).
Press one portion of rice around each piece of mozzarella, forming a ball about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Gently place on prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini. Place platter in freezer 30 minutes to allow balls to firm up.
While rice balls chill, set up dredging station: Place flour into shallow bowl, eggs into another shallow bowl, and panko into third shallow bowl.
In large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches of oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on deep-fat thermometer. While oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off excess. Dip each rice ball in egg, then in panko. Gently lower 4 balls into hot oil; cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. (Don’t overcook or cheese will leak out into oil.) Using slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer arancini to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining arancini.* Serve at once with Quick Tomato Sauce, if desired. Makes 16 arancini.
*CHEF’S NOTE: If you like, you can fry the arancini the day before, refrigerate overnight, and reheat with great success. To reheat, bake in shallow baking pan in 375°F oven 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
• 6 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
• 2 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
• 1 cup olive oil
• 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted*
• 2 teaspoons minced garlic
• 1 teaspoon fine salt, preferably ground sea or gray salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid
• 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Set up large bowl of ice water. Fill large pan or Dutch oven about 2/3 full of water; bring to boil. Place basil and parsley leaves in sieve or colander that fits inside pan. Lower sieve full of herbs into boiling water; push leaves under water so they cook evenly. Blanch 15 seconds, then transfer sieve to ice bath to stop cooking process. Let herbs cool in the ice bath 10 seconds. Remove sieve, let drain. Squeeze any water that you can from herbs. Transfer to cutting board and coarsely chop.
In blender, combine herbs, oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and ascorbic acid. Process until well blended and somewhat smooth. Add cheese; whir a few second until just combined. Transfer pesto to bowl; season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Press plastic wrap directly onto pesto to keep it from turning brown. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week, or freeze up to 1 month. Makes 2-1/2 cups amount.
*TIP: Toast pine nuts in small dry skillet over low heat, shaking pan frequently. Heat 1 to 2 minutes; as soon as you smell fragrance of pine nuts, slide nuts out of pan and onto a plate to prevent burning.
Quick Tomato Sauce
• 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, such as San Marzano
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
• 1 bay leaf
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
Open can of tomatoes; pour off juice into bowl. Press against tomatoes to extract as much juice as possible. Place tomatoes in separate bowl. Using your hands, squeeze tomatoes to pulp. Reserve juice and pulp. Set empty can aside.
Heat oil in large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook briefly until light brown, about 30 seconds. Add tomato juice; bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes. Add crushed tomato pulp. Rinse remaining pulp out of can by filling it halfway with water (about 1 cup); add water to pan. Add bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste; return to boil. Add dried tomatoes and stir. Lower heat to medium; simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens and reduces to about 2-1/2 cups, about 50 minutes. Add oregano halfway through cooking. Discard bay leaf before serving.* For smoother sauce, process with immersion blender to desired consistency. Makes 2-1/2 cups.
*STORAGE: Store any remaining sauce in refrigerator up to 3 days. Serve over hot cooked pasta.