Arancini is a traditional Sicilian dish made of little balls of rice that have been rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs, then fried in oil. Yum, right?! The rice (or risotto) can be left as-is or stuffed with a variety of tidbits like cheese, ham, peas, or my personal favorite, olives. The first time I tasted one of these mouthwatering flavor bombs was on a walking food tour through Greenwich Village while I was living in Manhattan. I was handed this crispy round thing that looked a little bit like a hushpuppy, but was so much better. Since then, I’ve seen them on menus at the occasional Italian restaurant, but not nearly as much as I’d like to (seriously, these things need to become more mainstream!) – so I decided to make them myself. And share them with you. Because I’m nice like that.
Travel Note: There are quite a few companies out there that offer walking food tours in New York City and other parts of the country. I’ve been on about 4 or 5 different tours in Manhattan and highly recommend Foods of New York Tours – they were hands-down the best company I found. For information on other food tours around the U.S., check out this list on Tours4fün.
Now, for those of you not planning a foodie-vacation any time soon but still want this unforgettable experience, I suggest you whip up a batch of arancini at home, serve them on cheap paper plates, then walk around your neighborhood dribbling marinara sauce down the front of your shirt. See? It’s just like the real thing!
Olive Stuffed Arancini
- 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe in Homemade Stocks)
- 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc (see Note*)
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups Italian bread crumbs, divided
- 4-5 oz. blue cheese
- 4-5 oz. pitted green olives
- 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
- marinara sauce for serving
*Note: All of the alcohol in the wine burns off as it cooks, so it’s safe to serve to children, however, if you prefer, replace wine with an extra cup of stock.
To make the risotto
In a saucepan, bring stock and wine to a low simmer. Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, melt butter and oil in a large straight-sided skillet until bubbly. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add risotto and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Using a large soup ladle, pour 1 ladle-full (about ½ cup) of stock into risotto and stir until liquid is absorbed. Gradually stir in remaining broth 1 ladle-full at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Continue this process until all of stock has been used, approximately 25-30 minutes. Usually risotto should be cooked al dente, but for this recipe you want it soft, so after the stirring in the last ladle of stock, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook undisturbed for 5-8 minutes. Uncover and stir until all remaining liquid has evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer risotto to a bowl, then cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
To make the arancini
In a large, high-sided skillet, add enough oil to fill pan up to about 3-inches. Set over high heat.
With a sharp knife, slice open olives on one side, then stuff each olive with about ½ tsp of blue cheese (don’t worry about trying to make them look pretty because you’ll be stuffing them inside a ball of risotto).
Remove chilled risotto from the refrigerator and mix in beaten eggs, parmesan, and ½ cup of bread crumbs and stir until combined. Add the remaining 1½ cups of breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl or plate. Scoop 1 heaping Tbsp of risotto into your hand, then press 1 olive into the center. Form the risotto around the olive, covering completely, and shape into a ball.
Once the oil reaches 300°F on a candy or deep fry thermometer, carefully lower 6-8 uncooked arancini into the hot oil with a metal slotted spoon or fry basket. Fry for 3-5 minutes. Using your slotted spoon, roll arancini around in the oil so that they cook evenly on each side. Once the outsides have become golden brown, use the slotted spoon to transfer arancini to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining arancini, working in batches of 6-8.