It’s party season! Holiday soirees are popping up all over right now. I always like to bring a little snack with me as a hostess “gift” to contribute to the party spreads. That’s where today’s ooey gooey cheesy arancini risotto balls step in. Forget Christmas cookies, these little bites will be the stars of the food table.
I’ll admit, this type of recipe seemed intimidating to me in the past. I don’t know why but I also envision frying to be difficult. Well, I’m not sure if this is a GREAT thing or a bad thing (because I may start to do it all the time….) but I’m here to tell you that frying at home can be super easy. I’m going to walk you through all the major steps of this recipe below with some big tips. So follow along. DON”T JUST SKIP RIGHT TO THE RECIPE. I know I know, I do it too sometimes. But, with this one it’s worth the quick read. It will save time, frustration and make your end result the prefect party pleaser.
ok, first things first. Arancini. It’s an Italian rice ball. This recipe encompasses almost all of the traditional ingredients. The exception, I swapped risotto for rice. Personally, I think it gives them a better texture. They also have a ton more flavor and make for a creamier, cheesier arancini because you’re using pre-prepared risotto, rather than just plan boiled rice.
Now to the risotto. Once again, don’t be intimidated. I have a no-fail way to make risotto in under 30 minutes. Follow my recipe for Simple Creamy Risotto That is what you’ll need for this recipe. Just make a quick batch, let it fully cool, and you’re ready for action. If you have you’re own favorite recipe, use that. But..shameless plug…I think my recipe is a hit for these arancini. You’ll see why in the filling section of this post. My tip: The colder the ricotto is, the easier it is to work with to roll the arancini balls. If you can make the risotto the day before or earlier in the morning, it will make the rolling, coating and frying steps much simpler.
This is important you guys. I went with a traditional arancini filling of cheese. But, not just any cheese. And I swear it made a HUGE difference. I used Mahón-Menorca semi-cured cheese. It’s a firm cheese but still easy to cut. aka, perfect melting cheese! It has a slightly buttery flavor with a hint of roasted nuts. It’s also from Spain. I have to tell you, after getting turned on to this love for Mahón-Menorca, I don’t know why Spain doesn’t get more cheese love! I also used the hard, cured cheese which has a sharp, punchy flavor as the cheese in the risotto. So these arancini get a double dose. Scroll down for more details on Mahón-Menorca, like where to buy!
Panko all the way for these! They are bigger, and crunchier then traditional breadcrumbs. It makes for a golden, crispy crust that is irresistible. Also, this is a three part dip for coating. flour, egg, panko. The pre-flour coat is essential to make the thick crust that doesn’t fall apart while frying.
You can do this! I promise, it’s not that hard. Get a large, deep saute pan. Use an entire bottle of vegetable oil. Heat it over medium (VERY IMPORTANT). You do not want the oil on high. The arancini will burn, the oil will smell, it’s not an optimal experience. Even over medium, if you let heat long enough it will get to the temperature you need.
So when are you ready to fry you ask? Use a candy thermometer and let it get to 350 degrees OR do it my way, and simply toss a panko breadcrumb in every minute or two and when it starts to bubble you are ready!
TIP: Use a slotted spoon to transfer arancini in and out of oil. Turn every minute or 2 until golden brown all around. Use dish towels on a plate or platter to help soak up access oil once you remove the balls.
*Reminder- Never pour hot oil anywhere, wait until fully cooled. BUT, don’t ever pour oil down your sink. Save the container, pour it back in and dispose in your garbage.
Secret Ingredient: Lemon Zest. Sprinkle some over the arancini along with fresh, finely chopped, parsley. And then cut up that lemon you zested and put them on the platter too so people can squeeze if they like. Pair with good quality marinara for dipping. Or better yet vodka sauce!!!
Back to the Mahón-Menorca Cheese. If this isn’t a variety you are already enjoying, you need to add it to your repertoire. Mahón-Menorca Cheese can be purchased nationwide at Whole Foods, and at other fine retailers such as Fairway Markets, Harris Teeter, Saveway, Kroger, Murray’s, Central Markets, Costco, Gourmet Garage, West Side Markets, Zabar’s, Central and Town & Country Markets in Seattle and at the best specialty stores all over the country
Now on to the recipe!!!
…all for the love of the dish
- 1 batch of my Creamy Risotto Recipe (Fully cooled and chilled)
- 2 cups Mahon-Menorca semi-cured cheese, grated
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup, fresh parsley finely chopped
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups Italian Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 48 oz bottle vegetable oil
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 lemon, sliced in small cubes for garnish
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 cup of your favorite Marinara or Vodka sauce for dipping
- Combined COLD risotto, egg, grated cheese and parsley in a bowl.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Using your hands roll meatball sized balls int the palm of your hand. You can make them as small or large as you like. I made them about half the size of my palm (made about 2 dozen)
- Pour the entire container of oil in a deep saute pan. put on medium heat (NOT HIGH). bring to 350 degree or until a breadcrumb starts to sizzle if you drop it in the pan. DO NOT DISPOSE OF THE OIL BOTTLE
- As the oil heats, start to coat your arancini.
- Drop each ball into flour, then egg, then Italian panko breadcrumbs that have been seasoned well with salt and pepper. Repeat with all arancini lining your parchment paper with the coated balls to wait to be fried.
- Your oil may get to optimal temperature while you are still coating. Using a slotted spoon, gently drrop in a few at a time, so they are not touching.
- Fry for 2-3 minuted until golden brown then flip. The second side goes faster so watch carefully.
- Remove from pan with slotted spoon and place on a dishtowel lined platter to soak up excess oil.
- Repeat until all arancini have been fried.
- Transfer to serving platter.
- Top with lemon zest, fresh parsley and lemon wedges.
- Serve alongside a bowl of Marinara or Vodka sauce for dipping.
- Let the oil cool completely- pour back in original container and dispose in the garbage (DO NOT pour down your drain)