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

Ingredients
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


Directions
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.

Arroz con Leche Flan

I combined two of my favorite Latin sweets into one perfect, elegant dessert for this week’s recipe. Arroz con Leche Flan brings together the flavors of creamy cinnamon and citrus-flavored arroz con leche (the Puerto Rican style rice pudding I grew up eating) and luscious caramel-topped flan.

Though I wish I could say I came up with the brilliant idea of making rice pudding flan all by myself, rice flan is actually a recipe that originated in Catalonia, located in the northeastern part of Spain. Rice is a central part of Catalonian cuisine, so it’s natural that it would show up in their desserts as well.

What is Basmati Rice?
To make my version of this dessert, you start off by making a simple rice pudding flavored with cinnamon sticks and thick strips of orange zest.

As this recipe is part of my ongoing sponsored collaboration with Carolina® rice, I opted to feature Carolina Basmati Rice for this recipe. Basmati rice is a type of long-grain rice most commonly used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Persian cooking. It’s lovely and naturally fragrant, and works beautifully in this rich, custardy dessert.

(Speaking of my Carolina Rice collaboration: if you haven’t seen them yet, you should also check out the incredible chorizo and manchego risotto I made last month, or the cinnamon-scented Mexican horchata ice cream I shared earlier in the summer. I teamed up with Carolina rice to share monthly recipes using their many varieties of rice and I have so many other fun rice recipes coming your way throughout the rest of the year!)

Once the pudding is ready, you mix in some additional cream, eggs and a few other good things, and the whole gorgeous mix gets baked into a caramel-coated pan just until set.

How to Make Caramel for Flan
Now about that caramel!

I know making caramel can be a little bit nerve-wracking for some people, but I promise that the way I do it is the easiest and quickest way. You literally only need sugar and heat. I’ve been making caramel like this since I was about 12 or 13 and first trying my hand out at homemade flan, so I know you can do it.

Most recipes instruct you to mix water in with the sugar, then bring it to a boil, and stand over it for about 10 minutes brushing down the sides until the sugar has caramelized. This is definitely one way to do it, but I personally think it takes too long and includes an unnecessary step. There is no need to add water. Part of the caramelization process is the evaporation of the natural water that’s in the sugar, so by adding more to it, you’re simply extending the process.

Making caramel really only takes about a minute if you use my preferred dry method. All you have to do is add the sugar to a heavy-bottomed pan (I use a good quality stainless steel saucepan for this) and place it over medium heat. In about 10 to 20 seconds, the sugar will start to melt at the edges, at which point you can start swirling the pan by the handle. Don’t use a spoon or place anything in the sugar; just keep swirling the pan around like you would a glass of wine. The sugar will look a little dry and clumpy at first, but keep going and you’ll notice it start to melt more and more until it’s all melted.

Let it go a little longer until the color starts to deepen into something resembling maple syrup or a very dark honey. It’ll smell toasty and… well… caramel-like! And just like that, it will be ready!

Immediately pour this into your pan, swirl the pan, and you’re done. This entire process should take less than 5 minutes. (The water method can take as much as 15 just to get that caramel!)

And all the above is so worth it because that caramel is what MAKES this dish. It will mix with the rice, creating a gorgeous, toasty caramelized rice topping and a dark, sophisticated caramel sauce that will run over the sides of the delicate flan.

It’s gorgeous, and I know you’ll love it!


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Loved this recipe? Here are three other Easy Rice Desserts you might enjoy:
 


Arroz con Leche Flan Recipe
Makes 1 9-inch flan (about 8 servings)

Ingredients
1 cup Carolina® Basmati Rice
4 1/2 cups whole milk
3 cinnamon sticks
3 thick strips orange zest
2 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Wrap the outside of a 9” round springform pan with aluminum foil and set aside. Fill a large roasting pan with 3 quarts water and place in heating oven.

Combine rice and 3 cups water in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer 15 minutes. Drain rice, then return to saucepan with the whole milk, cinnamon sticks, 1/2 half cup of the sugar, and orange zest. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until the milk has absorbed. Remove the cinnamon sticks and orange zest.

While the rice simmers, make the caramel. Place the remaining one cup of sugar in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan continuously as the sugar begins to melt. Keep swirling (do not stir) until all the sugar has melted and started to caramelize into a deep, golden honey color. Remove from heat and immediately pour caramel into the prepped springform pan, swirling the pan around until the caramel coats the entire bottom and partially up the sides.

Combine the 2 cups heavy cream, eggs, egg yolks, tablespoon of vanilla extract, and salt and blend 2 minutes or until frothy and evenly combined. Pour into the cooked rice mixture and stir to combine, then pour into the caramel-coated pan.

Place the pan in the roasting pan that is in the oven. The water should reach about 3/4 up the sides of the pan. If necessary, pour in a bit more hot water from the tap.

Bake 1 hour and 45 minutes, then remove from the water bath. Let cool on counter, then transfer to refrigerator in cake pan and chill at least 4 hours or overnight

To serve, dip the pan into a roasting pan or other large dish filled with very hot water and let sit for 20 minutes. Then remove pan from water, remove the foil, run a knife around the edges. Place a platter over the cake pan and invert. Remove the sides of the springform pan, then the bottom. Scrape off any rice or caramel that has stuck to pan and pour it over the flan. 

Chorizo and Manchego Risotto

A little bit Spanish and a little bit Italian, this Chorizo and Manchego Risotto is the perfect dreamy combination of risotto and paella. It’s got the luscious creaminess and ease of a perfect pot of Italian risotto with the bold Spanish flavors of chorizo, saffron, and aged Manchego cheese.

This crowd-pleasing recipe takes a little bit of time to make, but they’re easy relaxing minutes that require little more than some simple stirring. I love playing music and getting lost in the gentle rhythms as the rice steadily thickens into the perfect creamy pot of goodness. 

This is the second recipe in my sponsored collaboration with Carolina® rice. (If you haven’t seen it yet, click on over to the cinnamon-scented Mexican horchata ice cream I whipped up last month!) I teamed up with Carolina® to share monthly recipes using their many varieties of rice.


For this month’s easy rice recipe, I’m using Carolina® Arborio rice, which is a starchy medium grain rice that’s most commonly used to make risotto, as well as other dishes like rice pudding, paella, and rice stews.

Unlike other rice dishes that call for loose, fluffy grains of rice cooked in water, risotto is cooked slowly in simmering broth added a cup at a time, in a process that allows for the natural starches to release and create a naturally creamy dish that’s enhanced with the addition of ingredients like butter and cheese.

For this Chorizo and Manchego Risotto recipe, I used the classic Italian technique, but swapped in Spanish ingredients. Traditional risotto is typically finished with a process called adding the “mantecatura,” which consists of quickly stirring in butter and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the hot rice just before serving. Instead of butter, I stir in the rendered chorizo fat along with grated sharp aged Manchego cheese, allowing the two to melt and coat the tender grains of rice.

The result is decadent and packed with smoky flavor. The smoked paprika, saffron, and chorizo fat add gorgeous color, making it a perfect sunny entrée to serve at parties or weekend meals. If you and your family love chorizo, you will adore this Spanish-inspired risotto!


Chorizo and  Manchego Risotto
Serves 6

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 pound Spanish chorizo, sliced
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2  cups Carolina® Arborio Rice
1/2 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon smoked spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup grated manchego cheese

Directions
Heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced chorizo and cook 3-5  minutes, or until slightly crisped and rendered. Remove from heat.

Place a heavy bottom pot (such as a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add two tablespoons olive oil and the diced onions. Sauce 5-10 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant (2 minutes). Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil and onions. Cook 2 minutes. Add the sherry or wine and let simmer until completely absorbed.

In a separate pot, combine the broth, saffron, paprika, red pepper, and 3 teaspoons of kosher salt, and bring to a gentle simmer.

Add the seasoned hot broth to the rice, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Adjust heat so the rice stays at a low simmer.

Once all the broth has been added and the rice is creamy and just barely tender, remove from heat. Add the chorizo with any fat in the pan and stir into the rice. Add the cheese and stir in until melted. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt as needed.

Serve immediately with additional grated manchego on top.

Italian Chicken Sausage, Mushroom & Tomato Pasta

This Italian Chicken Sausage & Mushroom Pasta features two of my favorite shortcut ingredients to use when making quick dinner recipes--chicken sausages and flavor-packed mushrooms!

I recently told you about how much I love keeping a few packages of chicken sausages in my refrigerator because they make it possible for me to get dinner on the table in minutes. I partnered with Al Fresco this season to share a few easy dinner (or really anytime!) recipes like these Andouille Chicken Sausage Tacos with Mango Pineapple Salsa. 

Today it's all about an easy pasta dinner!

You already know that pasta is a crowd-pleasing lifesaver, but sometimes it can get a little overwhelming figuring out how to keep it interesting. Sure you can open up a jar of your favorite sauce and call it a day (and I do that a lot!), but this time of year, I love to take advantage of all the gorgeous fresh produce and whip up a fresh sauce that is loaded up with veggies and healthy proteins. It might seem complicated, but I promise that it's not.

One of the ways to keep things moving quickly is to start off with Al Fresco Italian Chicken Sausage. It's already fully cooked, which means you just have to slice it and heat it up in the pan along with a few other ingredients. Because the chicken sausage is also fully seasoned with incredible herbs and spices, it adds way more flavor to your dish than you would need by starting with raw chicken breasts or thighs.

My best tip is to start your sauce while waiting for your pasta water to boil. By the time the pasta is ready, the sauce will be too, so you just combine and serve!!

For this easy pasta recipe, I used mushroom, onions, a few handfuls of fresh cherry tomatoes, and some fresh herbs mixed in at the end. Mushrooms add tons of flavor as they cook down, and there are few things better than ripe summer tomatoes!

Like with all my recipes, I'd love for you to make this one your own. Swap in or add your own favorite vegetables (maybe zucchini or a handful of spinach?) or choose a different chicken sausage flavor (Roasted Pepper Asiago is another one of my favorites!).

There's really no way to go wrong with a simple staple recipe like this one!

****This post was sponsored by Al Fresco. As always, all recipes and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands like Al Fresco who make it possible for me to keep creating more great content for you!




Italian Chicken Sausage, Mushroom & Tomato Pasta
Serves 6

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 pound small to medium dry pasta (such as bowties, penne, rotini, etc.)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 pound button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, grated or crurshed
1 package Al Fresco Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage, sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions 
Bring 1 gallon of water to a rolling ball. Season boiling water with 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Once water is boiling, add the pasta and cook 1 minute less than package directions.

While the water boils and pasta cooks, start the sauce. Heat olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, season with a pinch of kosher salt, and let cook 3-5 minutes until they start to soften and reduce.

Add the garlic and sliced chicken sausage and continue to cook, about 10 minutes until the mushrooms are fully cooked and the sausage as browned slightly on the sides. Add halved tomatoes, broth, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of pasta water. Add the cooked drained pasta to the sauce and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2-3 more minutes. (If sauce is too dry, add a 1/4 cup or so of reserved pasta water to loosen it.)

Remove from heat and stir in parsley and cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper as need.

Serve immediately.




Homemade Horchata Ice Cream (No Eggs)

This month marks the start of summer, which is my favorite time to get inspired in the kitchen. The gorgeous weather, lush summer produce, and lazier days make it the ideal season for casual entertaining and sharing with friends.

This month is also the start of my sponsored partnership with Carolina® Rice!

Carolina® is a brand I grew up with and have eaten my entire life (I can’t remember ever not seeing at least a bag or two of it in our pantry growing up!), so I’m really excited for this opportunity to work with them. Each month for the next six months, I'll be sharing a new easy party recipe made with a different variety of rice.

From sweet desserts (like today's Homemade Horchata Ice Cream recipe!) to savory entrees and sides, I hope these recipes will inspire you to use a classic ingredient like rice in new and creative ways your friends and family will love.

But for now — back to dessert!

What is Horchata?
This Horchata Ice Cream Recipe is inspired by the cinnamon-spiced rice horchata beverage that's popular in Mexico. Horchata (pronounced or-CHAH-tah) is a refreshing sweetened non-dairy milk made from a mix of water and rice, nuts or seeds, that is sometimes sweetened and flavored with sugar and spices. It’s served chilled, and is a favorite drink during hot-weather days. The starchy creaminess of the beverage makes it a perfect pairing for spicy dishes.

Horchata originated in West Africa, where it was made with tiger nuts (or chufa, in Spanish), then was brought to Spain by the Moors. Tiger Nut Horchata is still very popular in Spain! Eventually, the beverage made its way across the ocean to what is now Central and South America, where it is most often made with toasted rice, and the Caribbean, where it's made with a mix of rice and sesame seeds. Then, after some time, variations of the beverage migrated up and around the United States, where it can be found everywhere, from taco trucks to trendy coffee shops.

It's not something many realize, but every time you order an almond milk latte, splash oat milk into your morning smoothie, or pour rice milk over your morning cereal, you're essentially taking a sip of a beverage that people have been drinking around this earth in one form or another for centuries!

How to Make Horchata Ice Cream without Eggs
While traditional horchata is made strictly with water, for this ice cream recipe I’m using the same technique of toasting and infusing the rice and cinnamon into dairy milk instead. This will give us the nutty flavor of toasted rice, with the lush creaminess of whole milk and heavy cream.

Basically the best of both worlds!

A lot of ice cream recipes use eggs to create a custard, but the natural starches in this rice ice cream recipe already thicken the milk mixture into a lovely silky pudding, without having to add eggs or other thickeners. It’s easier, and I think also helps the toasted rice flavor really shine through.

When my husband tasted my first batch of this, he commented that it almost tasted like frozen rice pudding!

Note that this recipe does take a bit of inactive time because you have to let the rice steep and then chill. It’s all very straightforward though, and doesn’t require you to hang around in the kitchen very much.

Serve this Horchata Ice Cream recipe on its own, sprinkled with cinnamon, or even drizzled with dulce de leche! Horchata Ice Cream is also the perfect dessert to serve with tacos!

Homemade Horchata Ice Cream Recipe (No Eggs)
Yields: about 1 quart
Active time: 1 hour
Inactive time: 8 hours

Ingredients:
1/3 cup Carolina® Extra Long Grain White Rice
2 tablespoons butter
4 cinnamon sticks (*if you are able to find Mexican canela sticks, use those instead, as they have incredible flavor)
3 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
Melt butter over medium in the base of a heavy-bottom pot (such as a Dutch oven) and add the rice. Use a spoon to stir regularly for 3-5 minutes, just until the rice is toasted and smells slightly nutty.

Add the milk, heavy cream, sugar and cinnamon sticks, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly until the rice is tender. Remove from heat; stir in the vanilla extract, almond extract, ground cinnamon and salt, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and transfer the mixture in batches into a blender, pureeing until very smooth.

Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, line with cheesecloth, and pour the pureed milk and rice mixture through, using a spatula to push it through and press out as much liquid as possible.

At this point, the mixture should be creamy and slightly thick, enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it is not, return it to the stove and simmer gently while stirring for 5 minutes.

Chill the strained mixture for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Process the chilled mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Ice cream will have a loose soft-serve texture at this point. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze at least 4 hours before serving.

Serve sprinkled with cinnamon, if desired.

Andouille Chicken Sausage Tacos with Mango Pineapple Salsa


These incredible Andouille Chicken Sausage Tacos with Mango Pineapple Salsa can be on your dinner table less than 15 minutes from now. True story.

That is, assuming you already have the ingredients in your fridge. If not, pull out this week's grocery list, because I've got a few things you're going to want to add to it!

Zucchini Jalapeño Soup

The bold flavors of this spicy green soup make it a lot more satisfying to me than the typical veggie soup. Jalapenos, cilantro, and fresh limes combine with the mild zucchinis for a soup that is a bit Mexican-inspired.

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