Italian, Leftover Recycling

Arancini.

Who doesn’t love risotto fresh out of the pot? It’s creamy and filling without being too rich or heavy, and makes a great first course.

Leftover risotto is another story. Unlike plain steamed rice, risotto can’t be reheated without losing most of the qualities that make it great. The rice grains lose their al dente bite, becoming mushy and gluey; herb and cheese flavors become dull, absorbed into the starch. But don’t worry – it doesn’t have to go to waste. You can make arancini.

Small fried balls of rice encasing some filling – a ragù, mozzarella cheese, peas, or butter – resemble little oranges, or arancini in Italian. These are most commonly found in southern Italy – Rome down to Siciliy – and are not necessarily made with leftover risotto. Arancini are the best use for leftover risotto, though – the rice is firm enough to surround a moist filling. Plus, I’m a big fan of recycling.

Try these two recipes, one filled with mozzarella and the other with a little cube of herbed butter, which melts when the arancini are fried. What? You don’t have any risotto on hand? Use this recipe, omitting the marrow, sage, and brown butter and substituting minced chives and a squeeze of lemon juice.

In each recipe, I have provided two breading alternatives. The simpler alternative involves simply rolling the formed risotto ball in a seasoned breadcrumb mixture. This method yields a lighter arancino, and the rice on the exterior becomes a bit crisp. If you prefer a more traditional breading, dredge the risotto ball in flour and then egg before coating in the seasoned breadcrumbs.

Arancine con formaggio

2 cups cooked risotto, according to the above recipe, or any other leftover risotto
2 ounces mozzarella, cut into 16 pieces
Optional: 2 eggs, beaten with 1 tbsp water, and 1 c flour
1 c fine breadcrumbs (you may substitute crushed panko)
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 c vegetable and olive oil (total. A combination of 3:1 is nice)

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano in a pan or bowl.

Cup the palm of one hand and place about 2 tbsp risotto in your cupped palm. Form a well in the risotto and place one piece of mozzarella in the center. Enclose the cheese with the risotto and form an even ball.

Heat a deep pot containing the oil to 350F/175C. Have a wire skimmer ready.

If using the flour and egg, dip the arancini one at a time in the flour, shake off excess, into the beaten egg (again shaking off excess), and finally in the breadcrumbs. If not using the flour and egg, simply coat well in the breadcrumbs, shaking off excess.

Fry in batches, turning over as necessary (the oil may not completely submerge the arancini), until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pot or the arancini will be oily.

Drain on a rack and hold in a 200F/95C oven until ready to serve. Do not drain on towels – this tends to steam fried foods and makes them soggy. Serve with a simple red sauce.

Arancine con burro

2 cups cooked risotto, according to the above recipe, or any other leftover risotto
2 ounces salted butter
1 tbsp minced chives
1 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
Optional: 2 eggs, beaten with 1 tbsp water, and 1 c flour
1 c fine breadcrumbs (you may substitute crushed panko)
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 c vegetable and olive oil (total. A combination of 3:1 is nice)

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano in a pan or bowl. Combine the butter and herbs, and form into a small cube or brick. Roll in plastic wrap and chill or freeze until solid. Divide into sixteen equal portions and keep the butter cold until ready to use.

Cup the palm of one hand and place about 2 tbsp risotto in your cupped palm. Form a well in the risotto and place one piece of herbed butter in the center. Enclose the butter with the risotto and form an even ball. Take care that the butter is completely enclosed or it will leak during frying.

Heat a deep pot containing the oil to 350F/175C. Have a wire skimmer ready.

If using the flour and egg, dip the arancini one at a time in the flour, shake off excess, into the beaten egg (again shaking off excess), and finally in the breadcrumbs. If not using the flour and egg, simply coat well in the breadcrumbs, shaking off excess. Fry in batches, turning over as necessary (the oil may not completely submerge the arancini), until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pot or the arancini will be oily.

Drain on a rack and hold in a 200F/95C oven until ready to serve. Do not drain on towels – this tends to steam fried foods and makes them soggy.

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