Recipe – Italian Arancini with Arrabbiata Sauce

Balls! Italian balls at that. Arancini, if you’ve never had them, are deep fried rice balls. They taste far better than they sound in English. They are a real faff to make yourself but are quite an adventure, and really are worth it in the end as fresh Arancini are one of my favourite Italian dishes. You can easily use alternative fillings to make it vegetarian. Start a good 90 minutes to 2 hours before serving, or make the risotto a day in advance and chill in the fridge.

For 12 balls, to feed 4-6, you will need:

Arancini

  • 4 shallots
  • 75g Parmesan cheese
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 400g risotto rice
  • 175ml Italian white wine
  • 2 litres hot vegetable stock (chicken stock is fine as an alternative)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 150g plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 400g plain dried breadcrumbs
  • At least 1 litre vegetable oil, for frying, or a deep fat fryer

Filling

  • 150g minced beef or lamb
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Arrabbiata Sauce

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 fresh birds eye chillis
  • 15-20g fresh basil
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes

Finely chop the shallots and place them in a large deep frying pan with the butter. On a low heat, soften the onions for 10 minutes. Add the risotto rice and thyme and stir to coat in the butter.

Turn the heat up to medium and add the wine and let it sizzle a little, stirring all the time. Add a good pinch of salt and ground black pepper. Now start to add the stock a couple of ladles at a time, stirring through the rice and letting it absorb the wine. Repeat this over 15-20 minutes until the rice is properly cooked. It should be soft with a bit of bite to the middle. Grate over half the cheese, stir in and leave to one side for an hour to cool.

To make the sauce, fry the garlic and chillis in a saucepan with a little olive oil for a minute or two. Add the tin of tomatoes and basil, stirring through until simmering. Then using a blender, mush this up to a smooth sauce and pop back into the saucepan ready for heating just before serving.

Just before forming the balls for frying, make the filling. Fry the garlic for a minute or two in olive oil, add the mince and the herbs, stirring and frying on a medium heat for 5-7 minutes until cooked through.

Place the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Divide the cooled risotto mixture into 12. Oil your hands (really!) and form a ball with one chunk of risotto, poke a hole in it, add a teaspoon of the mince and close the ball round it. Roll in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Place on a plate. Repeat until they’re all done.

Heat the oven to 100 degrees and place kitchen towel on a baking tray. Place the oil in a deep saucepan so it’s at least 5cm deep. Heat until very hot (you can use a deep fat fryer here too). Lower 4 balls at a time into the fat and fry for 8 minutes. When done, turn out onto the baking tray and place in the oven while you do the rest of the balls.

Heat through the Arrabbiata sauce. Place 2 or 3 balls on each plate, spoon over a generous amount of sauce and grate some of the remaining Parmesan on top. Serve with a leaf and rocket salad tossed in Balsamic.

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