Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto (and Arancini)

October 26, 2010
3 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Arancini is Italian for little oranges, and rice balls, look a bit like oranges with the golden color they develop as they fry. Growing up in Brooklyn we ate a good quantity of rice balls. These were no delicate little treat- they were the size of a tennis ball (maybe bigger) and they were densely filled with rice (held together with a bit of parmesan and egg)-- Inside was a delicious center of meat and peas. You could order these "deluxe" in which case the rice ball would arrive cut in half and covered with sauce, ricotta, and shredded cheese. My brother always ordered (and continues to order) the deluxe. So thirty years later, this is my take on the rice balls of Avenue U. Also- can be made ahead and then frozen (after frying)- when you are ready to tote to a party, reheat frozen arancini at 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until hot - iuzzini —iuzzini

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe starts out by making a risotto – and I have to admit not all of it made it to the arancini step as it was delicious in its own right. I ate a bowl and chilled the rest as instructed. The arancini are easy to roll up and easy to fry – they turn into perfect little crunchy balls, slightly sweet and nutty from the butternut and just salty enough from the pancetta, with a nice melted cheese surprise in the middle. We preferred them with parmesan and lemon zest sprinkled on top, and a bowl of reduced balsamic on the side for dipping. Delicious! - aargersi —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Butternut Squash and Pancetta Arancini Riso
  • 2 cups butternut squash-pancetta risotto (cooled) Recipe to follow
  • 1 tbsp + 1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably homemade)
  • 2 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 1 ounce cooked pancetta (cut into 1/4 inch chunks)
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Butternut squash and pancetta risotto
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 chopped shallot (about 1/2 cup worth)
  • 2 ounces pancetta (Get it in a 1/4 inch thick piece if you can-- I could only get it in thin slices here)
  • 2 cups butternut squash (1/4 inch dice)
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Butternut Squash and Pancetta Arancini Riso
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the risotto, 1 beaten egg, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
  3. Put this mixture into the fridge to firm up (about 20 minutes). At this point, start heating your oil (2.5-3 inches deep) in a medium sized sauce pan- Heat the oil to about 350 degrees F.
  4. Form the mixture into small balls (about the size of golf balls) using about 2 tbsp. for each arancini. Poke a small hole into each ball and insert a 1/2 inch cube of mozzarella and about 1/4 tsp of cooked pancetta. Close the hole back up. Sneaky. Arrange these on a plate and put them back into the fridge to firm up again. (If you are impatient- like me- you can put them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to speed up this process.)
  5. Dredge the balls with flour.
  6. Beat the second egg with 1-2 tbsp. of water. Roll each ball in the egg mixture and then coat in the breadcrumbs.
  7. Carefully place each ball in the oil and fry until golden (about 2-3 at a time). Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the oil and drain over paper towels. Repeat with remaining rice balls.
  8. Serve with a little grated cheese over the top. Would also be delicious with a drizzle of balsamic reduction--this would be the deluxe version for my brother. ;)
  1. Butternut squash and pancetta risotto
  2. Heat the chicken broth over low heat.
  3. In a large skillet, melt the butter. For the pancetta: if you were able to get it in a slab, cut it into a 1/4 inch dice. If you got it in thin slices, cut the slices into half inch squares.
  4. Add the chopped shallot and the squash to the pan. Cook these together over medium heat until the shallots are translucent but not browning. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the rice to the pan. Stir this mixture until the rice shines with its coating of melted butter and the grains begin to look slightly translucent, rather than opaque.
  6. Add the wine. Stir the mixture fairly continuously until the wine is absorbed.
  7. Slowly add the chicken stock (1/2 cup at a time). Stir until the liquid is absorbed and then add more stock. Continue this process until the mixture is quite creamy looking, the squash is cooked, and the rice is cooked but still has a little bite to it (about 35-45 minutes)
  8. Add the grated cheese to the pan and stir to incorporate. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with a bit more grated cheese on top. Enjoy!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • boulangere
  • Sagegreen
  • Marissa
  • tiptoesinthekitchen
  • Phelan:good

37 Reviews

Threemealsaday December 4, 2010
Great. Another way to use butternut squash. Thanks for sharing.
iuzzini December 5, 2010
Thanks! I hope you get to try them- They actually reheat really well in the oven if you freeze them after frying. I recently reheated some (heated the frozen arancini at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes, or until a knife tester comes out hot when inserted in the middle of one) and served them over a simple salad as a starter course. A nice treat to have in the freezer during busy times of the year!
boulangere October 31, 2010
I'll be glad to!
boulangere October 31, 2010
Just the idea of these takes my breath away! I'm going to give try them a try-out in mini form, maybe on rosemary skewers as a catering option for upcoming holiday parties. Thank you so much!
iuzzini October 31, 2010
Thank you so much boulangere! Mini-arancini sound adorable and the rosemary skewer sounds beautiful! I would love to see a pic if you do it. :) Thanks again!!
Sagegreen October 31, 2010
My! I have never made rice balls before, but you can rest assured I am going to try these out! And the literalist in me may even be tempted to add in some bits of actual orange.
iuzzini October 31, 2010
Thank you Sagegreen!! I bet orange would be pretty tasty in there- and maybe in a balsamic reduction too! Mmm- let me know how they turn out. Thanks again!
Marissa October 29, 2010
Okay, I made them today. Holy goodness. This is one of the best things I've ever eaten, let alone made. Really fantastic recipe!
iuzzini October 29, 2010
Oh I'm so glad!! Thanks for letting me know! Twice now you have made my day!!
Cristina34 October 29, 2010
This looks sooooooo good! I am going to a potluck in a couple of weeks and I think I'm going to try it :) YUM!
iuzzini October 29, 2010
Sounds great! Let me know how it goes! fyi- because they are fried, I think they are best served hot- then they are perfectly crisp on the outside and a bit gooey on the inside . . . Enjoy!
tiptoesinthekitchen October 29, 2010
This looks and sounds so fantastic!
iuzzini October 29, 2010
Thanks Tiptoesinthektichen! They are pretty fun and quick to make- If you try them let me know how it goes. :)
Phelan:good October 28, 2010
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. scratch.
iuzzini October 28, 2010
cousin- come visit and I will stuff you full of arancini! :)
YiFang October 28, 2010
These look delicious! I would definitely try to recreate these lovely little oranges in my kitchen!
mrslarkin October 28, 2010
These sound really yummy!
iuzzini October 28, 2010
Thanks mrslarkin! I hope you try them! Your scones look amazing as well! I have really been enjoying reading all these delicious recipes- everyone is so creative!
Marissa October 28, 2010
I actually stopped in the middle of what I was doing to stare, half in longing, half in shock, at the picture. I am that impressed.
iuzzini October 28, 2010
Thanks Marissa, This made my day! :)
YiFang October 27, 2010
These look so delicious! I would definitely try to recreate these lovely little oranges in my kitchen!
iuzzini October 28, 2010
Thanks YiFang! Yes! Create little oranges! They were really fun and pretty quick to make- they'd even be a nice little meal with some salad or sauteed greens. You can try it with half of the squash you get at the market on Sat. :) Enjoy!
YiFang October 27, 2010
These little oranges look so delicious!! I would definitely try to recreate these lovely oranges in my kitchen!
Good C. October 27, 2010
Wish I could try them right now. Yummmmm!
iuzzini October 27, 2010
Thanks Good Cookin!
KCampbell October 27, 2010
Yum! These look great! I can't wait to try to make them myself!
iuzzini October 27, 2010
Thanks so much KCampbell! Let me know how it goes!
TheWimpyVegetarian October 27, 2010
These look so yummy!!
iuzzini October 27, 2010
Thanks ChezSuzanne!! They were great reheated in the oven too!
BloomingtonBaker October 27, 2010
Wow! Can't wait to try these for my next savory food adventure.
iuzzini October 27, 2010
Yay! Definitely do! :)
firecracker October 27, 2010
I wonder how these would taste with a beet risotto?
iuzzini October 27, 2010
Firecracker- I think they would be delicious with a beet risotto- If you wanted them to be pink, you could cook the beets in the risotto, or you could make a basic risotto and add roasted beets to it at the end- Might also be good with a blue or goat cheese in the center of the arancini! :)
cheese1227 October 27, 2010
iuzzini October 27, 2010
Thanks cheese1227!
lastnightsdinner October 27, 2010
I *love* arancini - these sound great!
iuzzini October 27, 2010
Thanks lastnightsdinner! I hope you try them!