Isn’t he wonderful? That’s our chef in Enna – making his special arancini for us. We loved him and his incredibly scrumptious rice balls! This is a one-of-a-kind experience in Sicily on a Taste and Savor Tour – like this one coming up in October 2021.
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Celebrate Sicily Day Eight_ Arancini, Sicily’s Ultimate Comfort Food
Irresistibly savory and delicious, arancini are the epitome of Sicilian street food. Small balls of risotto rice are stuffed with tomato sauce, mozzarella and peas, dredged in breadcrumbs, and cooked. The resulting arancini whose name means “little oranges” in Italian — explode with flavor in each crunchy, cheese-filled bite.
We can thank the ancient Sicilians for this perfect snack; the southern island is known for combining simple ingredients into tasty recipes, and this is no exception. Calling only for rice and a few other ingredients, arancini are inexpensive, easy to make, and ready to eat on the go.
Arancini, make the prettiest appetizer, or even a meatless meal. In Sicily they are served up with or without meat sauce, “ragu” and with a variety of cheeses and fillings. On the eastern side of the island, they differentiate the fillings by the shape of the rice ball. If meat sauce is inside, the arancini is a ball, al burro (“with butter”) has a longer, cone-like shape and is filled with diced mozzarella and prosciutto and grated cheese
Some of the fun and different balls I’ve seen in Sicily are those stuffed with pistachio, swordfish, shrimp, eggplant, sausage and prosciutto. I’ve even seen chocolate arancini.
The first arancini I ate in Sicily made me want to recreate them at home. After arriving in Siracusa, we discovered Gusto Gourmet, a small gourmet store with a beautiful array of take away foods. Tired from our long trip, and intrigued by the funny shaped al burro rice balls, we added them to our basket and enjoyed a evening picnic dinner. We loved them, and I knew arancini was going to have a place in the Waldeck dinner line up.
I came home and researched recipes on the internet, and watched You Tube videos from rappers to grannies to develop my own version of arancini. Many of the restaurant or chef-driven recipes instructions included making risotto first. I love a good risotto and can make an awesome pot, but I discovered risotto is not necessary if you make your rice with risotto rice like arborio, and chill it first before making your balls.
For my first couple of tries, I used a cast iron skillet and shallow fried the arancini. Then I bought an air fryer. And it works like a charm – no need to make the mess or add the extra oil to the balls. They air fry beautifully with a crispy crunchy crust!
(Of course you can bake them at 400F for about 15 20 minutes or shallow fry them in a cast iron skillet. But if you have an air fryer they turn out deliciously!
Arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls with Pasta Sauce)
- 2 Cups Arborio Rice, Cooled, preferably made the day ahead
- 1 TB Tomato Paste
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
- 3 Large Eggs
- Mozzarella, cut into small cubes
- ½ Cup Thawed Frozen Peas
- 2 Cups Perfectly Easy Tomato Sauce, divided
- 1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 Cup Dry Breadcrumbs
- Olive Oil Spray
Combine the rice, tomato paste, Parmesan and 1 egg in a medium bowl and use your hands to thoroughly combine the mixture.
Form each arancini by taking a portion of the mixture, squeezing it firmly and stuffing one cube of mozzarella, a tsp of sauce and a couple of peas inside each ball. Repeat this process until the mixture is used up.
Whisk together the remaining 2 eggs. Dip each arancini in the eggs and then roll in the breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess.
Spray your air fryer basket with oil and place the balls inside of it – leaving enough room around each ball to allow the air to circulate. (You may need to air fry the balls in batches). Cook at 350 – 400F until balls are golden brown – in my air fryer this takes about 10 – 12 minutes. Serve with the remaining Perfectly Easy Tomato Sauce from Celebrate Sicily Day One.
I’ve chosen an easy drinking Nerello Mascalese (Naw-rello Mosque–a–lay–zay) to enjoy today. Easy to drink – not to pronounce! Although, as the quintessential Sicilian street food, arancini is served up with lots of different wines, beer and as you’ve seen in the photo above, even espresso!
Cortese, a long-running organic wine growing estate in southern Sicily was given a fresh start when owners from Northern Italy bought it and began making quality wine like this one. Made with purchased organic grapes normally grown in the region of Mt. Etna, this wine is a cherry party in a glass, with bright red fruit, soft silky tannins and subtle spice and mineral notes. You’ll want to try more Nerello Mascalese when you taste this tasty wine!
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