risotto, arancini, and Giuseppe
Until about two weeks ago, I had never heard of arancini, but since then I’ve been exposed to it on two separate occasions. The first was when I stumbled upon the blog and arancini was the featured recipe that day. The second was just the other night while assisting Chef Giuseppe Mazzocchi for his cooking class at Les Gourmettes. Giuseppe is a charming man who is from Tuscany and made the most wonderful risotto (He also pronounces my name “Leeenda”, which I love!). He mentioned to the class that any extra risotto could be used to make arancini… turns out arancini are fried rice balls filled with sauce, mozzarella, and/or peas. The names come from the shape, which resembles an orange. The Italian word for orange is arancia and arancini means “little oranges”. You can even make a dessert arancini filled with chocolate and using a sweet version of risotto – YUM!
Giuseppe told us that in Tuscany they prefer either Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice to the Arborio rice that Americans generally use for risotto. All three are short-grain rices, but the first two produce a creamier risotto and each grain holds its shape better than Arborio. You should be able to find all three at an Italian market or deli, and locally at A.J.’s. Even though each class had 16 students, there was so much risotto left that I was able to make 48 arancini, 44 of which I how have in my freezer! I’m providing you with Giuseppe’s risotto recipe, but any risotto will do. Even some you bring home in a “doggy bag” from a dinner out some evening. It is imperative to make the arancini with cold risotto, so leftovers are perfect.
1 cup flour
2 cups panko
About 3 cups cold risotto
12 bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), each cut in half
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
1 jar marinara sauce, heated
Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Beat the eggs in a wide flat bowl. Place the flour in another flat bowl and the panko in a third flat bowl.
Wet your hands and pick up about 2 tablespoons risotto in one hand, press a piece of bocconcini into the center of the risotto and form into a ball, completely covering the cheese. Place balls on one of the baking sheets as they are made, making 24 balls.
Roll the balls in the flour to lightly coat, then in the eggs, rolling and lifting out with a fork, and lastly in the panko to coat completely. Place on the second foil-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 1 hour. (The balls may be frozen at this point. Place the baking sheet, uncovered, in the freezer for 6 hours. Once the balls are individually frozen, carefully place in a 1 gallon freezer quality zip-lock and lay flat in freezer. When ready to use, remove as many as needed from bag and place on a plate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours to thaw before frying.)
Heat vegetable oil to the depth of two-inches in a medium to large saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees. Fry the balls in batches, a few at a time, turning once during cooking so that they are evenly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer balls to paper towels to drain briefly before serving. Serve hot with warm marinara sauce for spooning on or dipping.
Giuseppe Mazzocchi’s Risotto “all” Ortolana
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped and divided in half
1 leek, washed well and finely chopped
1garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
8 to 10 cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 zucchini, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, each finely chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as thyme, chives, parsley, and basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
16-ounce box Vialone Nano or Carnaroli Italian rice
5-6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and sauté half of the shallots along with the garlic and leeks until translucent. Add the carrot, tomatoes, zucchini, celery, bell peppers, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are soft.
Meanwhile, heat the stock in a saucepan and gently simmer.
Remove vegetables from pot and use a damp cloth to wipe out the pot. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in the pot, sauté the remaining shallot until translucent, stir in the rice and cook to coat the rice with the oil for a couple of minutes. Add two ladles of the hot stock, while stirring well. Add the vegetables and 2 more ladles stock. Continue to stir and add stock by 2 ladles as the liquid is absorbed, simmering over low heat until the rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, add the Parmesan and butter, stirring vigorously to make a creamy risotto.