Risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make because it is so fun to watch the starchy rice transform into a thick stew. But I think the real reason I make it so often is that it I really love eating it as a comfort food. The first risotto recipe I tried came from Bon Appetit, and I’ve only made slight variations to it since. I usually mix up the mushrooms, substitute onions for leeks (since that’s what I always have on hand) and skip the wine. It’s really fun and I recommend you try it.
Should you find yourself with a batch of leftover risotto, as I recently did, you can also take this recipe a step further and make arancini, or Italian rice balls. These are deep fried balls of rice that have a crunchy exterior and a soft, gooey middle full of risotto goodness. You may be thinking all this living in Texas is turning me into a frying-fiend, and you may be slightly right, but this recipe was actually inspired by delicious arancini B and I had while in Italy last spring.
To make arancini, I prepared risotto one evening with the Bon Appetit recipe linked above. The following day, I took about 2 cups of my leftover risotto and added: 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1 cup frozen green peas and 1 egg. You should get a soft, sticky mixture, but it should still be easy to roll up into rounds the size of a baseball. Adjust the mixture if needed with more breadcrumbs if it’s too soft.
Once you have the balls formed, mix 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup of flour (your choice of what kind) in a plate. Roll your risotto balls in the flour mixture so that they are completely coated.
Heat up about a 1″ inch layer of grapeseed oil in a dutch oven. I don’t have the heart to deep fry and waste all that excess oil, so I shallow fried the balls in this oil and gave them a turn once one half was golden brown. This results in a slightly flatter ball than the traditionally arancini shape, but it makes no difference in taste. Don’t overcrowd the pan as you fry, and drop the cooked arancini on a paper towel as you go to soak up excess oil. Salt them while they’re hot and serve.
If you have leftover arancini (made from your leftover risotto …. Maybe we need a lesson in portion control!), as I did, they come back to life if you toast them in a 350-degree toaster oven for about 10 minutes. Buon Appetito!