Italian Rice Balls – Arancini

Rice balls

I don’t think I’d ever eaten these before, but as soon as I saw them on Alifemoment‘s blog, I knew I wanted to make them. I’m so pleased with how they turned out, I had visions of them all falling apart and turning into a big mess, but no, they worked perfectly! Light and crispy on the outside, soft and tasty on the inside – what more could you want?

I had a few very slight variances in my quantities and methods from Alifemoment’s recipe, mostly just for practical reasons.

WHAT YOU NEED:

– 1 Mozzarella cheese ball (125g)

– 1 1/4 cups (uncooked measurement) Carnaroli rice (Carnaroli is considered by many to be the finest of the risotto rices. I’m sure arborio would work fine here too, but it definitely wouldn’t work with long grain rice, it needs the creamy stickiness of risotto rice to hold it together).

– 50g Chorizo (the original recipe called for “Salsiccia dura” which is an Italian version of chorizo, but I couldn’t find that so went for the chorizo)

– 50g frozen peas

– 4 teaspoons tomato puree

– 150g bread crumbs (I made my own breadcrumbs by using white sliced bread that was a few days old, dried it further in the oven on a low temperature until it was crisp, but without any browning, then rolled the slices into fine crumbs with rolling pin on a wooden board)

– 70g plain white flour

– Salt and black Pepper

– 2 Eggs, beaten

– Oil for frying (the recipe called for sunflower oil but I used groundnut oil, which is always my preferred oil for cooking when I don’t want the oil to add any flavour, it’s quite light too)

WHAT YOU DO:

1. Cook and cool the rice.

2. Boil, drain and cool the peas.

3. Cut the chorizo into tiny pieces. Cut the mozzarella into pieces that are about twice as big as the chorizo pieces.

4. In a separate bowl, mix the cooled rice with the tomato puree, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. Tomato puree can vary in how concentrated it is, so you may want more or less of it, taste and add until you’re happy.

5. Get a bowl of water which you will need for dampening your hands in before shaping each ball. Divide the rice roughly into 12. With each of the 12ths, take about three-quarters of it in your wet hands, and press and shape it into a ball. Push a hole into it and widen it so you have a little cup shape. fill with the pea/chorizo/mozzarella mix, then use the remaining quarter of rice to seal the top. Shape it back into a good ball. Continue doing that with the rest of the mixture.

6. Set up three plates or bowls, one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and the other with the breadcrumbs.

7. Roll each of the rice balls first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, giving a good generous covering with all three of those.

8. Heat the oil in a frying pan. I had the oil about 1cm deep. Once the oil is hot enough, place a couple of the rice balls in, if the temperature is right, they should sizzle gently on contact. Cook them two to four at a time, turning as necessary until you achieve a golden brown colour all over. They’re pretty robust, none of mine fell apart while being rolled around the pan. When you take them out of the oil, drain them on some kitchen paper.

I served ours warm with a tomato dip that I made by cooking down canned tomatoes with some tomato puree, garlic, hot pepper sauce, a little sugar, salt and pepper (I cooked and cooled the tomato dip earlier).

You can alter the filling to use different meat, or make a vegetarian version with mushrooms, but for me, the smokey taste of the chorizo was a key component of their tastiness, so I’d need a lot of persuading to switch from that!

I’ll definitely be making these again, will you?

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