Nini's Deep Fried Arancini from 'Pasta Grannies'

December 22, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by Emma Lee
  • Prep time 3 hours
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • makes 8 arancini
Author Notes

Nini lives near Catania in Sicily where arancini are large and pointed (and the spelling is with an ‘i’; on the western side of the island, they are arancine). Nini says they are meant to resemble Mount Etna and the oozy filling looks like lava. She works in the local butchers and makes arancini for church festivals where, of course, they are hugely popular.

There are multiple stages in this recipe, and the trickiest bit is stopping people from eating them as they come out of the fryer. Use Arborio rice for this recipe because of its starchiness, which helps the grains stick together. If you cannot find caciocavallo, use any cheese that’s good for melting, such as fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella).
Recipes excerpted with permission from Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking by Vicky Bennison, published by Hardie Grant Books September 2022, RRP $32.50 Hardcover.Food52

What You'll Need
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Nini's Deep Fried Arancini from 'Pasta Grannies'
  • Rice
  • 500 grams (1 pound 2 ounces/4 cups) arborio rice
  • 1 liter (34 fl oz/4 ¼ cups) vegetable stock, plus more if needed
  • 1 pinch saffron, ground
  • 60 grams (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • Ragù
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 300 grams (10 ½ ounces) minced (or ground) pork
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 120 milliliters (4 fl oz/ ½ cup) dry white wine
  • 700 grams (1 pound 9 ounces) passata
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) green peas (frozen are fine)
  • Béchamel
  • 20 grams (¾ ounce) unsalted butter
  • 25 grams (1 ounce) 00 flour
  • 250 milliliters (8 fl oz/1 cup) cold, full-fat milk
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • To Assemble
  • 100 grams (3 ½ ounces) Caciocavallo cheese, or other good melting cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 liters (68 fl oz/8 ½ cups) peanut oil, for frying
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Weigh the rice, then measure twice its volume in stock. This volume method ensures all the stock will be absorbed. Bring the stock to a rolling boil in a saucepan and season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the rice and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente. Depending on how wide and shallow your pan is, you might need a little extra stock to complete the cooking of the rice. Take the pan off the heat and, while the rice is still very hot, briskly stir in the butter. Let it cool for several hours until it is completely cold. You can also leave it overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator. Once cold, taste and check the seasoning; you want it properly salted otherwise the end result will be bland.
  2. Make the ragù. Large chunks of onion or celery will make your arancini fall apart, so blitz the onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely minced. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the onion mix and fry for a couple of minutes until slightly softened, then add a pinch of salt. Gently sauté everything for about 7 minutes until the onion is translucent and soft. Add the pork and tomato paste and stir until the meat is no longer pink. Pour in the wine and wait until the alcohol has evaporated before stirring in the passata. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper seasoning, then let the sauce simmer gently for about 30 minutes. You want the liquid to have reduced so that you can see the bottom of the pan when you drag a spoon through it. Add the peas and simmer until they are plump and cooked. Let the ragù cool completely before using it for arancini. This quantity is more than you need for arancini, but it’s the minimum amount for making a decently-flavored sauce. Use the leftovers for pasta dishes, if desired.
  3. Make the béchamel sauce. Heat a small non-stick saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the flour and whisk for a minute or so until well blended but not taking on any color. Gradually add the cold milk and keep whisking until the sauce has thickened and is smooth. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Taste to make sure the raw flour flavor is gone. Let it cool completely.
  4. Assemble the arancini.Cut the Caciocavallo cheese into batons about 10 to 12 grams (¼ ounce) in weight and 6 cm (2 ½ inches) long. Mix 8 tablespoons of the ragù and 4 tablespoons of the béchamel sauce to begin. You might need a little more, in which case mix in a 2 to 1 meat-to-sauce ratio. Place the eggs in a shallow dish with 2 pinches of salt and whisk them thoroughly with a fork so that when you lift it up, the eggs drain evenly through the prongs. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate. Cover the palm of one hand with rice about 1 cm (½ inch) thick. Use your other hand to add a cheese baton and a tablespoon of the sauce mixture, then take a palmful of rice in your other hand and close it over the other hand as you could in prayer. Mold and pat it to make a pointed cone shape. Once you have formed an arancini, dip it completely in the egg wash, then remove any excess egg by letting it drip a bit before rolling it in the breadcrumbs. Place each one, pointed side up, on a tray. Refrigerate for 30 minutes while you heat the oil.
  5. Fry the arancini. Find a tall pot fitted with a candy thermometer and fill it with the peanut oil. This should be enough for the arancini to be completely submerged when you first add one to the oil. Heat the oil to 325–338°F. With the help of a spider skimmer, carefully transfer an arancino to the hot oil, being sure to not splash yourself or overcrowd the pot—cooking two at a time is a good idea. Fry them for about 10 minutes, turning them regularly until golden brown. They will bob to the surface as they cook. Transfer the cooked arancini to kitchen paper to drain; let sit about 4 minutes before serving. Eat warm or cold, but not hot.

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