Risotto has always been one of my favourite Italian dishes thanks to it's creamy texture with that little bit of bite from the al dente arborio rice, and the subtle savoury flavours that are worked into the rice dish. Risotto has this ability to send me up into foodie heaven, keeping me glued to my chair, never wanting to leave, happily eating bite after bite of risotto until the sun comes up. Except we know that can never happen right? You can never really eat risotto all night long, unless of course you are lucky enough to have someone cooking it for you and fitting the bill all night. The reason why risotto really can't be eaten all night long is yes, because it's very starchy and would fill you up mighty quickly, but also because those starches just get starchier and more gluey in texture as the risotto rests. Think of risotto as the Cinderella character of the meal. Risotto joins the dinner all dressed up, looking like a star, with everyone eying it for just a taste. And just when you start to get to know risotto, indulging in its complex flavours, and getting seduced by its comfort inducing creaminess, it begins to change. That beauty that you saw when the risotto arrived at your table begins to diminish, as does that creamy texture that drew you in to begin with, and before you know it, it's gone! Ok, so maybe that metaphor is a bit of a stretch, but you know what I'm getting at, right? Perhaps it's the immediacy in which risotto must be eaten that adds to the allure of the dish, as does the sheer labour involved in making it.
In Chef Skills class at George Brown Culinary College this year we learned how to make risotto in our Rice & Legumes class. Where every other dish that we prepared that night was to be handed in at 9pm, our risotto had a much earlier "service time". Because of that Cinderella syndrome that risotto seems to have, Chef wanted us to call us over as soon as our risotto left the heat and hit the serving dish, so that he could taste it at its best and test it appropriately. As proud as I was to hand in my near-perfect risotto (that's right!! It was fantastic!), it meant that all that hard work standing over the hot stove, never allowing the risotto to leave my sight, constantly stirring so that the starches didn't fall to the bottom of the pan and burn, and adding ladles of hot stock every few minutes would be for next to nothing. All that hard work for only a brief taste from myself and my teacher. By the time class was finished and I trudged to my boyfriends apartment, hoping for his approval of my near-perfect risotto, it has already turned into a pumpkin...I mean, it had already become gluey and tough. I refused to let all that hard work go to waste!
The next morning I immediately began looking up methods for making Arancini. You might be wondering, what is Arancini? Arancini (pronounced "A-ran-TCHEE-nee") is one of the best ways to use up leftover risotto. The leftover risotto is combined with a mixture of beaten eggs, more cheese, and breadcrumbs, and rolled into little individual balls. These risotto balls are then stuffed with a surprise cheese filling, and fried until crisp and golden, and served, once again, immediately so that cheesy centre remains all ooey, gooey, and melted. So basically, Cinderella found her glass slipper and is the belle of the ball all over again! Thankfully, after all that labour making the risotto, Arancini is much more simple to prepare and can be made up in next to no time, and still give you those heaven-bound results. So the next time you fret over wasting leftover risotto, think about making a batch of crispy ad creamy Arancini to keep that risotto love going!
Tip: Don't want to fry all the Arancini in one go? Simply roll out all the balls and lay out in a container or, if you have the space, a baking tray in an individual layer and freeze. When frozen, place them in a freezer bag or container, and place back in the freezer until ready to fry up! So easy!
* If you don't have Italian-style, just add your own spices and seasonings to regular bread crumbs
vegetable oil, for deep frying
2 cups leftover risotto
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups Italian-style bread crumbs*, separated
2 ounces Mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
salt, to season
marinara sauce, for serving (optional)
- In a medium bowl, combine the leftover risotto with the beaten eggs, parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs. Place the remaining breadcrumbs in a small-medium bowl.
- Begin forming the risotto mixture into balls, just under 2-inches in diameter. Insert a cube of mozzarella into the centre of each ball, and re-form into a ball to seal the cheese inside. Dip the balls into the remaining breadcrumbs to coat the exterior of each ball evenly.
- In large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add enough oil to reach 3-inches in depth. Turn the element to medium-heat and, using a kitchen thermometer to test, bring the oil to 350ºF. Lay out a baking sheet lined with paper towel next to your frying station.
- Working in batches, carefully add a few balls at a time to the oil (do not crowd the pan!) and fry until golden, crisp, and heated through, about 4-minutes. Turn the balls as needed to ensure even frying. Remove from oil and lay out on paper-towel lined baking sheet. Season immediately with a bit of salt.
- Serve balls immediately with marinara sauce to dip.