One of the Sicilians’ peculiarities is that whatever they do they do it with love and passion.
In this specific case, us “Isolane” we express love for food by talking about a typical delicious local food: the “Arancino”. Worldwide known street food made of rice shaped like little balls or cones. Stuffed with “Ragù” with peas and melting caciocavallo cheese, breaded and fried. The main characteristic of the “Arancino di Riso” is the crispy breaded external crust hiding a tender heart.
There is one big question though: is it Arancino or Arancina?
In Palermo, they call it Arancina due to its orange (arancia) rounded shape. In Catania it is called Arancino, “masculu” (male) for its pointy shape like the orange tree. Someone else thinks it is clearly referring to the Etna shape and we also like that. Whatever you want to call it, we suggest to try it maybe even by following the traditional recipe.
Here in Sicily, there are many different types of Arancini, maybe over 30!!! People generally love Arancini of white rice, normally filled with ham and mozzarella cheese, or with Zafferano rice with its typical yellow colour or with meat ragù. There are also the vegetarian Arancini or the oven-baked Arancini slightly lighter version.
According to the local tradition, the Arancine palermitane are prepared on the 13th of December on Santa Lucia’s day. But you can find Arancini every day of the year in the typical friggitorias or bars.
Are you curious to learn how to cook the perfect Arancino? Follow this simple recipe with a few basic rules: use Riso carnaroli with its long grains and ability to retain consistency when cooked; use a lot of butter to give the rice the creamy texture. Last but not least a thick double breading, first with water and flavor batter then with breadcrumbs. This will give arancini the typical golden crispy crust.
Cooking time for your perfect arancino: 45 minutes.
Ingredients for 10 pieces:
For the rice:
500 gr of carnaroli rice
70 gr butter
2 saffron sachets
For the meat sauce:
150 gr of minced pork
50 gr of ground beef
a piece of celery
2 bay leaves
2 – 3 cloves
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
200 ml of thick tomato sauce
100 gr of peas
1/2 glass of white wine
80 gr of grated caciocavallo cheese + 50 gr in chunks (optional)
00 flour (6 – 8 tablespoons and even a little more depending on how much the arancini absorb)
Take the rice to boil in abundant salted water. Strain the rice when still firm and stir it in a pan with butter and saffron until perfectly creamy and smooth. Move it to a baking tray so that the rice can uniformly cool down.
Meat and peas ragù filling
Finely chop the onion, celery, and carrot and stir-fry then with olive oil. Add the mincemeat and let it cook for 1 minute and spray it with a bit of white wine. Let it dry and then add tomato sauce, bay leaves, cloves till it starts boiling. Cover with a lid and let it slowly cook for at least 50 minutes. The ragù must look and feel thick. Remove the lid and let it dry and then add the peas. Let it cook for another 15 minutes without steering too much to avoid the peas to mash. Remove the bay leaves and the cloves. Let it cool down for 30 minutes and finally add the grated caciocavallo cheese. Add a pick of salt and let it cool down completely.
Shape the arancino
Before assembling the arancini, make sure the rice and ragù are cold.
Take a handful of rice and with one hand make the ball shape, with the other hand make a little hole for the stuffing. Fill it with 2 coffee spoons of ragù and a little piece of caciocavallo cheese. Then add a bit of rice to close the gap and give the final rounded or cone shape of your choice. Apply a bit of pressure to give the rice balls the right consistency and put them on a plate.
In a high edge bowl mixes the flavor with a little water to create a smooth, dense, and sticky batter (tempura style). Dip the rice balls and make sure the whole surface is covered in batter. Roll them uniformly in the breadcrumb.
Once all the above steps are covered the arancini can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or frozen or fried immediately. To fry the arancini please use a high edge pan filled with peanut or sunflower oil. Maximum 3 pieces at a time with boiling oil at 175c. The oil temperate can be checked by dipping a toothpick.
Nothing else left to say except “Buon arancino a tutti”!!!
Photo source: canva