I love to cook, it is the way I show love, the way I destress from the day, the way I let my creative juices flow. However, there is only so much Gary and I can eat on a daily basis, and I tend to make enough food for an army when I cook. So, I am constantly repurposing and reinventing leftovers to bring a new, fresh meal to the table. Arancini had to start this way in the homes of Italian Nonnas looking to offer new flavors for leftover risotto and rice from the previous days.
Gary loves saffron-infused rice, especially paired with grilled garlic and herb shrimp. After enjoying this one evening, we had enough rice leftover to feed that aforementioned army. Looking in the pantry and fridge, I knew making the following evening’s dinner would be a breeze by turning the rice into arancini. Beautiful little balls of cheese-stuffed love. Traditionally in Italian arancini, you may stuff the hearty spheres of rice with mozzarella or asiago, but my fridge had easy-melting pepper-jack cheese instead. Serve with fresh pesto and marinara on the side, and a tasty bottle of Italian red.
To pair, I would go for a Montepulciano di Abruzzo from Azienda Agricola Binomio ($52.) The joint venture of Stefano Inama (Inama Azienda Agricola) and Sabatino di Properzio (Fattoria La Valentina), who came together to create a great wine in a great region with structure and tannin, but also softness and lovely freshness, showing a modern style for the typically robust wine, allowing early enjoyment and removing the need to allow the wine to have extensive aging or decanting. The wine is dry and rustic, with texture, medium-body, and a nice savory, herbaceous and toasted oak note that melds with -skinned berry and cherry notes.
3 cups prepared saffron rice, or any kind of rice that is well cooked with very little moisture to ensure the arancini stay together
1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
3 ounces cheese that melts well, like mozzarella, Monterey jack, pepper jack, etc. cut into 1/2 ounce cubes
salt and pepper
Grapeseed or vegetable oil
Whisk the egg in a small container. Add the panko to a separate bowl or container and season lightly with freshly cracked pepper. Form the arancini into golf or tennis sized balls (up to you and your taste…we made about 6 arancini out of three cups that were about the size of a tennis ball. Carefully stuff a piece of cheese into the center of each arancini, closing the rice around the cheese.
Roll the arancini in the panko, then into the egg, then back into the panko and set aside onto a baking dish. Form all of the arancini, placing each on the baking dish then refrigerate for 15 minutes to half-an-hour. Remove from the fridge.
Add enough oil to a frying pan to coat the bottom of the pan and come about an inch up the sides. Heat the oil to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the arancini to the pan and fry until golden brown, turning to each side to ensure even frying. Remove from the pan onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet to soak up the excess oil. Season lightly with salt and serve hot.
If you aren’t going to serve them immediately, place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and into a warm oven, around 275 degrees.