This arancini recipe (fried risotto balls) is an updated version of the classic Italian appetizer, using Panko crumbs for extra crunch! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
“I think I lost track of how many I’ve eaten.” said AJ when I asked him if he liked the arancinis I had made for the dinner party. That’s a solid sign that he really liked them. Our dinner guest Kevin interjected “I ate five of them!” in a statement that I couldn’t tell was shame or pride. I didn’t question further because I knew I had to get dinner on the table or they would fill up on fried risotto balls. Apparently my arancini recipe was a winner.
I had made arancinis before, but it had been awhile. Lately I’ve been in a frying mood, which is dangerous for my waistline but oh so fabulous for the tastebuds. And though I probably should have picked an easier appetizer to make than arancinis (which require the making of risotto beforehand) I really somehow got it in my head that I need to make some for our dinner party.
Of course it’s totally worth the effort in the end. There’s something really satisfying about biting into the crunchy fried aborio rice balls and getting to the center of the gooey mozzarella cheese in the middle. But don’t take my word for it, just ask AJ or my friend Kevin. They certainly can tell you how great the arancinis are!
Arancini Recipe with pancetta, leek and spinach (otherwise known as Fried Risotto Balls)
By Irvin Lin
Traditional arancini recipes are bread crumb crusted fried risotto balls that are deep fried and look a little bit like small oranges (arancini is Italian for “little orange”). Most recipes call for plain or Italian breadcrumbs but I opt for panko crumbs instead for extra crunch. It’s a deviation from the tradition but I think add a spectacular crunch to the end result. I like to rinse my hands with fresh tap water after forming every three or four balls, to keep my hands clean and to keep the rice from sticking. Just shake your hands dry, don’t use a towel, to keep your hands moist to help form the balls.
Adapted from a recipe I developed for Anolon cookware.
3 ounces thin sliced pancetta, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 medium leek, chopped (white and light green part only)
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3 1/4 cup to 3 3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
1 pound spinach, washed and stems discarded
2 tablespoon grated Kerrygold Dubliner or Parmesan cheese
8 ounces fresh buffalo mozzarella
2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 large eggs, beaten
oil for frying (peanut, rice bran or another high smoke point oil)
1. Place the pancetta and 1 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until the pancetta starts to look crisp. Add the leek, cooking for an additional 2 minutes or until they start to soften. Add the Aborio rice and cook for 2 more minutes, or until the rice starts to turn translucent around the edges.
2. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently until the rice absorbs the wine. Add the stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the rice absorbs the liquid before adding any more. Continue adding the stock until you have used 3 1/4 cups. Taste the rice and if it’s too firm, add the additional 1/2 cup. Once the rice is finished cooking stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and the grated cheese.
3. In a separate pan, add the remaining olive oil and heat on medium high. Add the spinach, wilting all of the spinach. Using tongs, squeeze out as much liquid as possible then stir the wilted spinach into the risotto. Set aside for the risotto to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
4. In the meanwhile, cut the buffalo mozzarella into 1/4 inch cubes. Stir the Panko bread crumbs, parsley, basil, oregano, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a medium sized bowl. Beat the eggs in a bowl until uniform in color.
5. Once the risotto has cooled, form the risotto balls by first wetting your hands under the faucet then shaking most of the water off. Scoop up about 1 tablespoon of risotto and flatten it into a disk in the palm of your hand. Place a cube of the mozzarella cheese in the center and gently “squeeze” the rice around the cheese cube. Pass the rice ball “back and forth” between your hands to help form a perfect sphere, making sure the cheese is enclosed. Roll the rice ball in the egg wash, then in the bread crumb mixture and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining rice and cheese.
6. Once all the risotto balls are formed, pour the oil into a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven until it reaches about 1 1/2 inch deep. Heat the oil to 350˚F. Once the oil is hot, carefully place a batch of the balls into the oil and fry, turning constantly to make sure the ball is completely cooking, for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the ball is golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan when you fry the balls. Once done, move the balls to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Wait for the oil to reheat to 350˚F and fry another batch, repeating until all the balls are cooked. Let cook slightly before serving.
Makes about 36 arancinis.
If you like these arancini/fried risotto balls, check out some of these other risotto recipes from around the web:
Cannelle et Vanille’s Winter Squash, Prosciutto and Sage Risotto
Lottie + Doof’s Toasted Barley Risotto
Gimme Some Oven’s Mushroom Risotto
No Recipe’s Kimchi Risotto
Running to the Kitchen’s Buckwheat Risotto with Mushrooms and Leeks