Monday, November 14, 2011


We went to Cinzetti's (a local Italian buffet) a few weeks ago for my birthday dinner and it was great. I've been wanting to back ever since. One thing I particularly loved were the arancini. These are risotto balls that are breaded and fried and they are SO good.

While I still had these on my mind, I was flipping past the food channel and saw Michael Chiarello making arancini. I stopped to watch and realized that while his method was kind of complicated (beginning as it did with making risotto from scratch), I thought I could probably simplify things for myself.

I started by making Rice-a-Roni for the kids' dinner on Saturday night. I realize that Rice-a-Roni is not risotto. However, it's a whole lot quicker and easier to make! When I'm doing the cooking, I'm all about quick and easy. So I made the Rice-a-Roni. (I used 4-Cheese because that's what I had in the pantry. But any kind should work.) I deliberately made more than I needed for the kids so I could put the rest in the fridge overnight. Letting the rice cool overnight makes it more glutinous and easier to form into rice balls.

The next day, I got my ingredients together.
  • leftover "risotto"
  • mozzarella cheese, diced into small cubes
  • a couple of beaten eggs in a small dish
  • a dish of panko breadcrumbs
I just took a scoop of rice (maybe 3 tablespoons? A good size handful, anyway.) and formed it into a ball. Then poked a hole in the center and inserted some mozzarella cheese and smoothed the rice back over the hole. I dipped the rice ball into the egg to coat it, then rolled it in the panko bread crumbs.

At this point, you can either deep fry, pan fry or oven fry. Traditionally these should be deep fried or at least fried in 2-3 inches of oil in a deep frying pan. But I hate to fry in large quantities of oil. I'm always afraid I'll set the house on fire. Plus what do you do with all that leftover oil when you're done? So instead, I decided I could just do it in the oven.

I sprayed a cookie sheet with a bit of cooking spray and added my arancini. I drizzled the tops with just a bit of olive oil to help them brown up. I cooked them for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then turned them over and cooked for another 15 minutes.

I let them cool and firm up for about 5 minutes, then served them with marinara sauce for dipping. They were incredible! Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and with a melty mozzarella center. I still have some rice left, and I'm seriously contemplating making them for dinner again tonight!

No comments: