Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

You can make the batch of risotto the day before, let it cool and stick it in the fridge and then make the arancini the next day if you want.

It helps a lot to have a handled spider strainer to fry these with.

If you can't find the little mozzarella "pearls", just buy the larger balls and cube them.

this recipe makes about 4 cups of risotto - enough to make about 24 small or 16 medium sized arancini

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons finely minced onions
1¼ cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken broth (approximately)
pinch of saffron threads
¼ cup white wine (optional)
⅓ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1½ cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
½ teaspoon sea salt
about 24 fresh small mozzarella balls, packed in water (called pearls by some brands)
about 3 cups canola oil, for frying

In a medium sized saucepan (one with sloping sides, like a Chef's pan, is ideal), heat the oil and onions and saute over medium low heat until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice and cook, toasting it a bit, for a couple of minutes.  Add the white wine and stir, cooking that for a minute.  Add about a cup of the broth, the saffron and keep the heat at medium low, just so the risotto is actively simmering.  When the broth has been absorbed and you can run a spoon through it and see the bottom of the pan, add more broth.  Don't let the rice stick to the bottom. Stir and let the rice absorb the broth.  It will take about 25 minutes until the risotto is done.  Taste it and see if the kernels are just tender.  Keep adding broth until the rice is tender (but not mushy - you want just a little firmness) and has absorbed all the liquid in the pan. Remove from the heat, add the cheese and blend.  Spread the rice out onto a large rimmed metal baking sheet and allow to cool.  You can stick it in the fridge at this point until the next day if you want.

Once the risotto is completely cooled, transfer to a bowl and add the beaten egg.  Blend and refrigerate again for about 10 minutes. 

In a shallow bowl, blend the bread crumbs with the sea salt.  Drain the mozzarella balls of their water. Get a clean rimmed baking sheet out to put the rice balls on.  Take a scant ¼ cup of rice (depending on how big you want the arancini) and place it in your hand. Make a dent in the center, stick a mozzarella ball in and cover it up with the rice.  Form into a ball.  Roll around in the bread crumbs until coated and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with all of the rice until you have all the arancini made.

Take another rimmed baking sheet and place a  wire rack inside.  This is to place the fried rice balls on.  You can place paper towels underneath the rack if you wish.

Heat the canola oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat (or a fryer if you have one).  Take a kernel of rice and throw it in the oil.  When it sizzles, the oil is ready.  Lower the arancini, three at a time, into the hot oil.  A handled wire spider strainer makes this job easier.  Fry the rice balls until they are golden brown, turning them over every once in a while with the strainer.  Remove from the oil with the strainer and place on the wire rack to drain.  Repeat with all the rice balls. 

You can serve these hot or just at room temperature.  They are great party food because they can sit out at room temperature all evening. 

The Italian Dish