You guys. I made you a snack. An incredible, easier-than-it-seems snack.
I’ve talked about my love of risotto a few times on this blog. It’s one of the best versions of comfort food out there, in my opinion. Not only is it rich, creamy, and cheesy, but it’s simple to make. Sure, you need to invest some TIME in making risotto, but the technique is as easy as it gets. The possibilities are endless, too. You can put just about ANYTHING in a risotto.
So, to take my love for it a step further, I made fried risotto balls, also known as “arancini.” SO GOOD. The outside of these fried little bites gets crispy and the inside stays gooey and cheesy and wonderful, thanks in part to the smoked mozzarella I stuff in the middle. It’s the perfect fried food. They are showing up on more and more restaurant menus…because…well, they’re awesome.
I had some leftover basic risotto that I used for these. If you happen to not eat an entire pot of risotto in one sitting, you can totally make these arancini in no time at all with the chilled leftovers. I HAVE actually made risotto in the past, though, solely for the purpose of making arancini. It depends on how much time/effort you want to put in. As I said already, I stuff the rice balls with cubes of smoked mozzarella cheese. I also sprinkle some fresh thyme and dried red pepper flakes into the mix and finish everything off with a drizzle of truffle honey. If you can’t find truffle honey, regular honey will still do the trick. I find that the sweetness works wonders with the savoriness of risotto and the smokiness of the cheese. It hits all the flavor notes.
You can also make a large batch of the arancini and freeze them before frying. They are a decadent fried treat, so you don’t need a ton in one sitting (or maybe you do?). I often make deep fried treats in large batches but end up freezing a large chunk of the recipe. Makes it a little more manageable on the waistline. I rarely deep fry at home, but I am more inclined to heat up a pot of oil when I already have the goodies ready to go in the freezer. Takes some of the work out of frying.
These are a favorite of ours. While we eat them sparingly, they conquer all cheese, carb, and fried food cravings in one bite. In fact, I’m experiencing all those cravings right now. I might have to remedy that…
Smoked Mozzarella Arancini with Thyme & Truffle Honey (makes 6 servings)
Canola oil, for frying
2 cups leftover risotto, chilled (basic recipe for risotto below)
½ cup grated fontina cheese
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs, divided
4 oz smoked mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
Truffle honey, for serving
Pour enough oil into a heavy-bottomed pot to reach a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium until it reaches 350°F on a deep-fry thermometer.
Lightly beat 2 of the eggs in a large bowl. Fold in the risotto, parmesan, fontina, red pepper flakes, thyme, and ½ of the breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper and mix until combined.
Form 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a ball, about 1½ inches in diameter. Make an indentation in the ball and place a cube of smoked mozzarella inside. Fold the risotto mixture around the mozzarella to enclose.
Beat the remaining 2 eggs in a shallow bowl. Pour the remaining breadcrumbs in another bowl. Roll the formed rice balls in the eggs and then in the breadcrumbs. Place the coated rice balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue until all the rice balls have been formed and coated. Note: at this stage, you can place them in a fridge to set up before frying, although it is not necessary. You could also freeze them for later use.
Working in batches, add the rice balls to the hot oil and cook until golden and warmed through, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt while still hot. Serve the arancini warm and drizzled with the truffle honey.
Basic Cheese Risotto (makes about 4 cups – double what you need for this recipe)
4 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley or basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the stock in a small pot until just simmering. Keep warm over very low heat throughout cooking process. In a large skillet or pot, melt the olive oil and butter together. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes over medium heat until softened and translucent. Add in the garlic cloves and cook for another minute.
Add the rice and toss to coat in the butter/olive oil. Toast the rice, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Add in the white wine and cook, stirring, until mostly evaporated.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the warm stock, ½ cup at a time, to the rice mixture. Allow the rice to slowly absorb the stock, stirring frequently. Once the stock has mostly absorbed, add another ½ cup. Repeat until all the stock has been incorporated and the rice is tender and creamy (about 20 minutes total).
Stir in the cheese and herbs. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve as is or cool and reserve for making arancini!