Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto (and Arancini)

October 26, 2010
Photo by Julia Gartland
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

  • Serves 4
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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!

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