Arancine, meaning “little oranges” in Italian, is a popular Sicilian specialty.
This savory snack is a saffron-scented rice ball with a meat filling, breadcrumb coating and is fried to golden perfection. This is Sicilian Street food at its finest! Using extra-virgin olive oil and frying at a constant 375* is the secret to this occasional treat that is crunchy on the outside and neither greasy nor oily tasting.
The filling and rice mixture can be prepared a day or two in advance, leaving only the frying for the day you plan to serve them. If there are any leftovers, arancine can be reheated in the oven and may be served with a simple tomato sauce.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 8 cups water (boiling)
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads, softened in 1 teaspoon warm water
- 1 1/2 cups Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
- Fontina or mozzarella, cut into small cubes
- Eggs, beaten
- Extra-virgin olive oil for frying
To prepare the meat filling:
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute the onion until it begins to turn brown. Add the carrot and celery and cook until tender.
- Turn the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef. Cook, until meat is nice and brown. Stir often as you scrape the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the tomato paste and stir in the half cup of water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste again and add salt and pepper if needed.
To prepare the rice:
- Either in a microwave or on top of the stove, boil 8 cups of water. (I use a large, 2 quart Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave).
- Using a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until soft.
- Add the arborio rice and salt and stir to coat with the oil. Add the boiling water and the saffron (including the water used for soaking). Once the contents comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 25 minutes. When all of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Taste and then add more salt if necessary. This is important because you can’t adjust the seasoning once the mixture is formed into balls.
To assemble the arancine:
Using three separate shallow bowls, fill respectively with flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs. Season each bowl with salt and pepper. (It’s also helpful to have a bowl of cold water handy to wet your hand to help the rice stick together).
Place a large spoonful of rice in the palm of one hand. Flatten it slightly as you cup your hand and make an indentation in the center. Take some of the meat filling and press into the center and then add the cube of cheese. Cover with more rice and shape into a ball the size of a small orange, approximately 2 1/2-inches. (moisten your hand with water if necessary).
Roll the rice ball first in the flour and then the beaten egg and ending with the breadcrumbs. Set aside as you repeat until all the meat, rice and cheese cubes are used. On occasion, I have prepared both the filling and rice 2 days in advance and then formed into balls the day before frying and they turned out great. However, it’s important to bring the formed arancine balls to room temperature before frying.
You may use a deep fryer if you’d like but, it is not necessary. To fry the arancine, I use a small pot (uses less oil) and a thermometer is a must. Add enough extra-virgin olive oil to reach a depth of about 3-inches (enough to cover the balls) and heat to 375*. Using a slotted spoon, carefully submerge one or two at a time, turning until deep golden brown. Be mindful of the temperature, as you want it a constant 375*. After approximately 4 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Enjoy immediately.