Arancine

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!

As an advocate of authentic Italian cuisine Manu from Manu’s Menu would advise you all to try, whenever possible, to cook Italian dishes with Italian products. In this specific case, try and use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano) and other Italian cheeses, if available. Also, use fresh mozzarella and not the shredded kind as the taste is quite different. Last but not least, a note about the rice: use risotto rice like Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano – do not use long grain rice as you will need to first make a risotto and then turn it into arancine.

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Recipe Of Pesto and Mozzarella Stuffed Arancine
Ingredients:
Saffron Rice
 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
3 tablespoons (60 ml) (55 gm) (2 oz) butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoons saffron threads
2 cups (750 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
½ cup (120 ml) white wine or extra vegetable stock or water
About 3 cups vegetable stock or water (depending on cooking time)
½ cup (120 ml) (55 gm) (2 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
 Basil Pesto filling
1 cup of basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup of shredded mozzarella
 3 tablespoons of ricotta cheese
salt to taste and freshly grated black pepper
 To assemble
Saffron Rissotto
Bread crumbs
All- purpose flour and water mixture or egg white
Oil for frying
Method:

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.
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.
Add the rice, mix well and let it cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the rice becomes translucent.
Now pour in the white wine or water (whatever you are using) and let the alcohol burn off by cooking on a high flame, only follow this step if you are using alcohol.
Then add enough stock or water to cover the rice and turn the heat to medium-low.
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 under cooked at this stage as it will keep cooking until it cools down completely. By the end of the process it will be just right). But, be careful not under cook it. It should be al dente.
After approximately 8 minutes add the saffron and keep cooking.
After the 13 minutes are up, turn the heat off and add the crushed black pepper, butter and Parmigiano Reggiano to your risotto. Mix  it 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. Pour on a sheet of baking paper, spread well and allow to cool down completely.

Meanwhile, make the filling by mixing everything. Take pesto and add the mozzarella, ricotta and seasonings.

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. Fill them with 1 tablespoon of pesto mixture and close the balls with your hands. Seal it properly so that the filling stays inside while we fry them. Keep them aside. Roll them in egg white (slightly beaten with the fork) or in a mixture of flour with water like a slurry and roll those in breadcrumbs. Shallow fry the balls in vegetable oil until they turn golden brown. Serve warm with some marinara sauce.

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