Arancini, or arancini di riso, are leftovers combined with street food. Sure, they’ve got a “fancy” name, they’re a perfect appetizer or small plate for a dinner party or holiday gathering, and they taste complex with an exciting, cheesy surprise in the middle. But in reality, arancini are the most effective way to use up leftover risotto.
One night in the fridge can turn creamy, delicate, filling risotto into a sticky, goopy, nightmare. That’s all it takes. And when you’re cooking for one or two or making it as a side, the fact that it makes horrible leftovers is a huge deterrent from spending the time it takes to make a good risotto.
Which is probably why I like arancini so much- it helps me justify the 45 minutes spent making delicious risotto instead of putting my clothes away or cleaning off the dining room table, because I know that in a few days I can use up the leftovers for crispy, cheesy arancini. Win-win, people.
I’ve made and enjoyed “traditional” arancini with ricotta or mozzarella in the center and coated in bread crumbs, but I prefer a stripped-down version with a bite of cheddar. For this batch I used a cheddar that was made in our backyard (not literally)- Cow Caviar of Chippewa Falls, WI, who buys milk from small organic family farms in the area to make their cheese! This cheese really exceeded my expectations, and it melted wonderfully in the arancini. I think that any creamy, melty cheese would work fantastically in arancini, be it untraditional.
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
2 c. leftover, cooled risotto
1/2 c. flour + 1/2 flour for rolling
1/2 c. grated parmesan or romano
2 oz. cheese, such as mozzarella or a creamy cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 T. oil
salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs to blend. Add the risotto, flour, and parmesan, and mix well to combine (I use my hands). Place the 1/2 c. into a wide shallow dish. Roll about 2-3 tablespoons of the rice mixture between your palms; insert a cube of cheese into the ball, and then roll in flour. Repeat until all the balls are prepared.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high until hot and shimmery, and reduce heat to medium. Add the rice balls in batches and cook until golden brown and heated through to melt the cheese, turning as necessary. (Mine get a bit flatter- almost like crab cakes- but that’s okay with me!) Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and let rest on paper towels. Serve warm with marinara for dipping (optional- we eat them plain).