Mozzarella Arancini with Spicy Arrabiata Sauce

Arancini seems like it would be the perfect name for a dessert. In Italian, the word means “little oranges,” and to look at them, these golden little rice balls really do seem to resemble a basket filled with petite tangerines or clementines. But these golden treats are savory and meant to be enjoyed before or during a meal, not after.

When planning out recipe ideas for my ongoing sponsored collaboration with Carolina® Rice, I knew immediately that I wanted to feature a recipe for arancini (aka fried risotto balls).

Though they’re admittedly a bit labor intensive, there’s just something about the way the crisp exterior of seasoned breadcrumbs breaks open to reveal warm and creamy risotto around a center of melted mozzarella.

One bite and I know you’ll agree that all the work is absolutely worth it!

Arancini are the Italian version of a croquette, originally designed to make use of leftover risotto. They’ve since become so popular in their own right that most recipes (including this one!) call for making a batch of risotto especially for the purpose of letting it be molded and fried into delicious arancini fritters.

For my recipe, I prefer an easy, shortcut risotto that’s made entirely in the oven, then further enhanced with a bit of heavy cream. It’s not at all traditional, but it’s luscious, and a simple way to skip ahead to the final dish.

Like in the chorizo and manchego risotto recipe I shared a couple months ago, I use Carolina Arborio Rice to make the rice base for these fritters. The natural starch in the arborio rice comes out as it bakes in the oven and, once cooled, provides the perfect amount of hold needed to form round patties. Once breaded and dropped into a sizzling pot of oil, the heat will once again melt the starchy filling back into the lush and irresistibly oozy bite of classic risotto.

Serve these hot, a few minutes out of the frying pan, or let cool to room temperature. With a simple tangy salad and a bowl of my easy arrabiata (aka spicy marinara) sauce for dipping, these make a perfect lunch or light dinner.

Note that arancini also work as a lovely party appetizer! While they do take a bit of time to prep, note that they can absolutely be made and fried days or even weeks in advance. Just pop them into the freezer and reheat in a 375-degree oven for about 25 minutes, just before serving.

Mozzarella Arancini with Spicy Arrabiata Sauce
Yields about 30 arancini

For the risotto:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 ½ cups Carolina Arborio Rice
3 ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup white wine
¼ cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

For the sauce:
5 large garlic cloves, sliced
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup minced fresh parsley

For the stuffing:
4oz mozzarella cheese, diced into ½” pieces

For the arancini:
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups flour
3 large eggs
8 cups canola, safflower, or vegetable oil, for frying

To make the risotto: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook 7 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Remove from heat and add the rice, broth, wine, lemon juice, and salt. Stir to combine. Cover and bake 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the ½ cup cream, lemon zest, butter, and parmesan cheese. Continue stirring until the cheese is melted and all the ingredients are incorporated.

Spread the risotto onto a baking sheet or other shallow baking dish. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until fully chilled and thickened. (Can be prepared up to three days in advance.)

While the risotto chills, make the sauce:
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and chili flakes and let cook about 3 minutes, or until the garlic is toasted. Add the crushed tomatoes and salt. Stir to combine, then let simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in parsley, then taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt as needed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Form the rice balls: Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Use a cookie scoop or spoon to scoop about ¼ cup of chilled risotto into your hands. Insert 1 or 2 pieces of mozzarella in the center and close the rice around it using your hands to mold it into a round patty. (It may be lumpy or flattened slightly—that’s OK!) Place on the lined baking sheet and repeat with rest of risotto and cheese. Set in freezer 20 minutes.

While risotto balls freeze, prep the breading. Combine panko breadcrumbs, oregano, chili flakes and salt in a food processor or blender and blitz several times until finely ground. Pour into a shallow bowl or baking dish. Place the flour in a separate shallow bowl. In a third bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy.

Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Remove the chilled rice balls from the freezer. Working one at a time, place into the flour, rolling around to coat completely, then roll in the beaten egg, then finally in the breadcrumbs. Roll until completely breaded on all sides then place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with rest of rice balls.

Return rice balls to the freezer and let chill 10 minutes while you heat oil.

Pour oil into a clean Dutch oven or deep heavy-bottom skillet until it reaches a depth of 3 inches. Heat to approximately 350F.

Remove rice balls from the freezer and, working in batches, fry for about 3–4 minutes or until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter and repeat with rest of batch.

Serve immediately with warm sauce on the side for dipping.

No comments

Hi there and thank you for reading! This blog is not currently active, so new questions are not being monitored. Please enjoy the archives.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Back to Top