Arancine al Ragu', the Italian Rice Ball with Savory Fillings

January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!

I made half the amount of risotto in the given recipe, and there was plenty for the two of us to have it with dinner the first night.  I made sautéed Ono, otherwise known as Wahoo, with pesto sauce, and served with the risotto, it was excellent.  Even after making the Arancine next day, there is still enough to make more tonight.

Having made extra when I slow cooked some pork tenderloin Sunday, the filling was a given for these little delicacies.  In that pork braise there were also fennel, tomatillos, some lime juice, tomatoes and wine.  So I minced all that up good, adding sautéed onion and toasted, ground fennel seed.  But, you can follow the directions and make it from ground beef as Manu directs.  But, to me this dish is a classic for left-overs.  Left-over risotto and stew of any sort for stuffing.  However, she also provided recipes for vegetarian versions.  So, left-over spinach maybe, but I am transmitting the recipe for meat Arancine as given.  You can get the alternate recipes at the above link.

Saffron Risotto
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
4 tablespoons (60 ml) (55 gm) (2 oz) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1½ teaspoons saffron threads
3 cups (750 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
½ cup (120 ml) white wine or extra stock or water
About 4 cups (1 litre) beef stock (depending on cooking time)
½ cup (120 ml) (55 gm) (2 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated

1. Start by putting the stock in a pot and heat until hot. The stock has to be hot all the time while you are cooking risotto, so that the rice temperature does not drop when you add the stock to it.   
(I just heated mine til boiling, then turned it off - as per Alice Waters)
2. Put the finely chopped onion and the extra virgin olive oil in a pot and let it cook on a slow (low) heat, until the onion becomes soft and transparent.

3. Add the rice, mix well and let it cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the rice becomes translucent.
4. Now pour in the white wine and let the alcohol burn off by cooking on a high flame.
5. Then add enough stock to cover the rice and turn the heat to medium-low.
6. Keep cooking, occasionally stirring the rice and adding stock little by little, until the rice is a little more than half cooked. It is going to take about 13 minutes (NOTE - the rice HAS to be undercooked at this stage as it will keep cooking until it cools down completely. By the end of the process it will be just right).
7. After approximately 8 minutes add the saffron and keep cooking.
8. After the 13 minutes are up, turn the heat off and add the butter and Parmigiano Reggiano to your risotto. Mix very well, until it becomes creamy, but dry (if it’s too moist, you will have a hard time making balls out of it). Check for salt and season to your liking.                                                       
9. Pour on a sheet of baking paper, spread well and allow to cool down completely.  (Or have it for supper and refrigerate the extra for the Arancine next day, as I did.)
Arancine al Ragu’ – Meat Arancine

Meat Sauce
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 big carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
10½ oz (300 gm) (ground) beef mince
7 oz (200 gm) Italian pork sausage (better if with fennel) – optional (if you don’t use this, just add extra beef mince)
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) red wine
2½ cups (600 ml) tomato purée OR 1-2/3 cups (400 ml) tinned diced tomatoes plus 3/4 cups (200 ml) tomato purée
½ cup tomato concentrate
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of extra virgin olive oil
5 peppercorns or a pinch of freshly grated pepper (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (4½ oz) (130 gm) of frozen baby peas
                                           Have all your mise en place ready for rice ball making.
To Assemble
2 oz (60 gm) Mozzarella cheese, diced
1¾ oz (50 gm) Mortadella/Bologna, sliced and diced (optional)
Saffron Risotto (as per above recipe)
Egg white
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Finely dice the onion, carrot and celery and put them in a pot with the extra virgin olive oil. Let them fry on slow heat till soft (but not brown).
2. Then add the mince and the sausage (without skin) and stir well. Make sure to break the mince and sausage so that there are no lumps and it all browns well.
3. Raise the heat a little bit and add the red wine.
4. When the alcohol has evaporated add salt, the peppercorns and the tomato puree.
5. Add 4 glasses (1 litre) of water and the salt and stir. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for at least 1 hour (the more the better).
6. When almost cooked add the frozen peas and let them cook. Add water if needed (or reduce the excess water) until the right consistency is achieved. It has to be quite thick to make stuffing easier.

7. Make the Saffron Risotto as per the recipe provided and let it cool down.
8. When the rice has cooled down, make 10 to 12 balls with it and then open them by putting your thumb in one side. The hole has to be quite large to allow you to fill them as much as possible with the stuffing.
9. Fill them with 1 tablespoon of meat sauce. Add some cubed fresh mozzarella and mortadella/bologna (optional) and close the balls with your hands and keep them aside.
10. Roll them in egg white (slightly beaten with the fork) and then in a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs (half and half).

11. Shallow fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Serve warm.

 I found the results really, really good, delicious in fact, and especially loved how the saffron flavor came through from the risotto, and the contrast of the filling flavor, the crispy coating and the creamy rice.  But the ball forming process was not particularly fun.  Perhaps coating my hands with olive oil would make it easier.  Maybe I didn't allow enough time for not feeling rushed, but next time....


Joanne said...

I love these little rice balls! I've always thought they were super hard to make but you make them look totally doable!

Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl said...

Your rice balls look great and oh so delicious!

Anonymous said...