Friday, January 17, 2014


Arancini, Italian rice balls, are fun to eat and tasty treat to please everyone. Here are my exercises on this subject - traditional deep-fried spinach arancini versus same spinach arancini, but baked. Find out which one I liked more! 

Blog's Category: DK Challenges, International, Vegetarian



A few years ago, as I found out that there is such a thing as arancini, since then, I wanted to make them. And here we are - this month's challenge on DK is arancini! That was a real fun to have authentic recipes on hand from our host (thank you, Manu!), but it was even more fun to travel online in a search for all about arancini.

Finally, to cook, I've chosen traditional spinach and cheese filled arancini. Striving for the authenticity, I've made half-a-batch fried in a large amount of oil, practically deep fried. Here is where my stubborn nature took over the process: I have an issue - issue of cooking deep-fried food. Well, it's not even health issues that much as you probably would assume. It's mostly about wasting so much oil (dah.. I don't want to re-use that oil again). It's also about the whole messy process of deep-frying in general, and probably a bit about laziness too :). Anyway, the second half of a batch never made it to a pot with hot oil. It went to an oven! And voila, surprise, surprise - baked version I liked even better. Baked arancini had even crunchier core and were awesomely tender inside. And of course, as you can imagine, baking of arancini is cleaner and faster process as well!

What is it?

Arancini is Italian dish which resembles itself yesterday's :) risotto, shaped into balls, stuffed with different kinds of yummy stuffing and cooked (deep-fried, fried, or baked). Arancini traditionally made in a round and pear shape. I noticed that pear shaped arancini is usually filled with meat/tomato sauce - Arancini al Ragu'. My dear Italians, I apologize if there is any inaccuracy in this arancini information :)

Taste Description

Risotto passes its amazing taste onto these rice balls. But the most fun you will get from a tenderly-juicy and cheesy-stringy stuffing which is encased into crunchy coating made of rice and standard bread crumbs. Who can resist this killer combination - crunchy, gooey, cheesy, buttery goodness shaped into the most perfect of all shapes - ball?! or pear shape with a wonderful crispy tail on a top?!

How to Serve

Serve on a pad of that shockingly simple sauce I offer for you below. Don't doubt the sauce recipe, just make it as is and you will never want to try any other :)  This sauce is derived from the recipe of Italian cookbook writer Marcella Hazan who unfortunately left this world recently. In this recipe, I replaced butter with an olive oil and made couple more small twicks.
Oh, yeaaa.. this dish, of course, the best served right away, off your hands. Although I appreciate it the next day too: heated and enjoyed at a slower pace, leftovers are usually eaten at, it's not crunchy anymore but still full of flavor and textures!

For 18-20 large arancini:
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 quart chicken stock, hot
  • about 1 quart hot water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan

  • risotto (cooked either night before or cooled down completely, see ingredients above)
  • spinach, large pack
  • 2 cups coarsely grated parmesan
  • 4 oz mozzarella, cut into 2/3" cubes
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (if you will fry your arancini)
  • 2 cups flour (if you will fry your arancini)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten (if you will fry your arancini)
  • 2+ cups of frying oil (if you will fry your arancini)
Tomato Sauce
  • 28 oz can of crushed San-Marzano tomatoes (San-Marzano tomatoes are really the best of canned tomatoes - you will feel the difference :))
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper (no salt!)
Tomato Sauce

- Place all sauce ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then turn heat on lowest setting and simmer, with a lid ajar, for about 1 hour. During cooking, add a few tablespoons of water if you feel your sauce is too thick. Do not forget to stir occasionally. If you are not fan of onion pieces in your sauce, then process your chopped onion with a two tablespoons of water before adding it to the saucepan.

- In a large pan, pour olive oil and cook onion just until translucent, on a medium heat.

- Add dry rice and cook stirring for a 5 minutes.

- Add wine and cook for a couple minutes, stirring until absorbed.

- Start adding hot stock and then hot water, by batches, stirring all the time, one by one. Add the next batch of stock or hot water after rice absorbed almost completely the previous one.

- When rice almost cooked through, add salt, pepper, butter and parmesan, stir well and take off the heat. Rice should be very creamy but grains shouldn't be mushy and just a little bit toothy.

- Cool risotto down completely before making arancini out of it or make your risotto day before.
- Throw spinach into boiling water for a minute or two just until wilted. Drain. Cool down. Roughly chop and squeeze (not too much though) to get rid of excess of water.
- Mix spinach with parmesan.
- Take about 1 tablespoon of cold risotto, shape into a ball and, with your thumb, make a large hole in it. Fill it with 1 teaspoon of spinach mix, top with 1 mozzarella cube, cover with another teaspoon of spinach. Shape it into perfect ball, closing the filling. Add more risotto grains, if needed, to close the hole. If risotto sticks to your hands to much, wet your fingers with a drop or two of water. Make your arancini as big or as small as you wish but I figured out that my 2"-diameter balls are optimal size for a lazy gourmande :)
- To deep fry arancini, coat them first in a flour, then in eggs, and then in bread crumbs. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer arancini into hot oil and fry until golden brown.
- To bake your arancini, there is no need to coat them into flour, egg and bread crumbs. Just place them on a greased baking sheet or ideally, as I do, on a bare silicon mat, placed inside of baking sheet. Sprinkle arancini with some grated parmesan and bake at 400F in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until well crusted and golden.
- Serve your arancini, laid on a bed of nice and hot tomato sauce. Sprinkling with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano wouldn't hurt! Enjoy!

Just San-Marzano tomatoes give this sauce deep wonderful red color and flavor. I adore this recipe. Notice that recipe doesn't call for salt - amusingly, but it really doesn't need salt. Making this sauce for a first time I was in doubts regarding this, but never after.. so.. not salt! :)

This is my risotto I cooked a day before.

Just throw spinach as is, out of package, into a boiling water and cook for a minute or two. Drain.

Pretty, meaty, awesome spinach.

Cubed mozzarella.

Roughly chopped spinach and grated parmesan.

I made this particular arancini with a two "pieces" of risotto - second piece will go on top of whatever you see on this picture. I believe that everyone has its own favorite way of shaping them :)
My arancini were about 2" in diameter.

This is why I don't like whole frying process - so much mess and extra-steps.. [sigh] much wasted oil..

..though looking so pretty :) Does it worth a fuzz? I donno :)

Those are just come out of oven - easy-peasy. Their shape are not perfect ball anymore, more like dome.

Nevertheless, coming out of oven, they are perfectly crunchy even without any bread crumbs coating.

Baked arancini, resting in a pool of tomato sauce, garnished with Parmigiano-Reggiano.



  1. Oh wow, those look wonderful. I didn't get a chance to fit these in this month, but after seeing yours it is very tempting to make up this recipe.

  2. I love how you present your recipes! John

  3. I love how you present your recipes! John


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