Arancini di Riso (Italian Rice Balls)

Sometimes I just want comfort food. I especially crave something warm, fried, and cheesy when the weather is still cold. Here on the West Coast we are still waiting for the warm weather to arrive. So you can bet that today we are serving up a delicious plate of Italian rice balls. This recipe comes from Italian Culinary Goddess, Chef Lidia Bastianich (owner of famous NYC Italian eatery, Felidia). If her name sounds familiar, her son, Joe Bastianich, is also quite famous in the culinary world and was also a judge for many seasons on Master Chef.

Arancini di Riso. You can’t say it and not swoon. Tiny balls of rice, peas, and ham are rolled together and deep fried. And the best part? When you bite into the center you’re greeted with a gooey piece of mozzarella cheese. Can you say, “more please”? This recipe makes about 2 dozen so if you have a small family like mine, this recipe makes enough to become a meal. But it also works well as appetizers in a large gathering. So go ahead and give these little gems a try. I promise you it is completely noob-friendly and absolutely worth the time and effort. Have a wonderful day everyone and keep cooking! 🙂

Arancini di Riso
Arancini di Riso

Italian Rice Balls (Arancini di Riso) 

Courtesy of: Lidia Bastianich, “Lidia’s Favorite Recipes” cookbook 

Makes: About 2 dozen

Ingredients: 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup finely diced ham or prosciutto
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (About 24 cubes)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions: 

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan; when the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the ham or prosciutto, and cook a few minutes, until the meat begins to render its fat.
  2. Add the rice, and cook to coat the rice in the oil and fat. Pour in the wine and cook until the wine is almost reduced away. Then add 3 cups of hot chicken stock and salt; cover and simmer until the chicken stock is absorbed by the rice, about 7-8 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock, and cover, letting the rice cook until al dente, about 6 to 7 minutes more. Stir in the peas towards the end, and mix well; spread the rice on a rimmed sheet pan to cool.
  4. When the rice is cool, put it in a bowl and stir in the grated cheese and chopped basil. Scoop out about 1/3 cup of rice, roll into a loose ball, then poke a cube of mozzarella into the center. Pat firmly to form a tight ball.
  5. Spread out the flour, breadcrumbs, and beaten eggs into 3 bowls lined up side by side. Dip the arancini in the flour, then egg, and then the breadcrumbs rolling them around in each evenly.
  6. Then fry immediately in a large skillet with vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry until golden on all sides, about 3 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels and season with salt while still warm. Then eat and enjoy!

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