January’s Daring Cooks’ challenge was a ball! The lovely Manu from Manu’s Menu brought our taste buds to the streets of Sicily and taught us her family tradition of making arancine – filled and fried balls of risotto. Delizioso!
This was quite a challenge, both time-wise and in terms of bringing it all together at the end. My effort looked rather more like cubes than balls! I think my risotto mixture was too wet and consequently it made the whole shaping/cooking process a bit tricky. I’d never tried, or even eaten, arancine so it was a new experience all round. And while I enjoyed eating them, I don’t think I’d make them again, purely with regards to the time and cost factors.
Just a note: If you go ahead and make this you may find, as I did, that it makes way too much meat sauce for the recipe. But never fear – the left-overs are perfecto for making a great Lasagne or Spaghetti Bolognese (which I did, though I modified the meat sauce for those recipes somewhat).
ARANCINE AL RAGU’ (MEAT ARANCINE)
Ingredients for the Saffron Risotto:
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml) (55 gm) (2 oz) butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1½ teaspoons saffron threads
- 3 cups (750 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
- ½ cup (120 ml) white wine or extra stock or water
- About 4 cups (1 litre) beef stock (depending on cooking time)
- ½ cup (120 ml) (55 gm) (2 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
Ingredients for the meat sauce:
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped
- 1 big carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 10½ oz (300 gm) (ground) beef mince
- 7 oz (200 gm) Italian pork sausage (better if with fennel) – optional (if you don’t use this, just add extra beef mince)
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) red wine
- 2½ cups (600 ml) tomato purée OR 1-2/3 cups (400 ml) tinned diced tomatoes plus 3/4 cups (200 ml) tomato purée
- ½ cup tomato concentrate
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of extra virgin olive oil
- 5 peppercorns or a pinch of freshly grated pepper (optional)
- 1 cup (240 ml) (4½ oz) (130 gm) of frozen baby peas
Ingredients for assembly:
- 2 oz (60 gm) Mozzarella cheese, diced
- 1¾ oz (50 gm) Mortadella/Bologna, sliced and diced (optional)
- Saffron Risotto (as per above recipe)
- Egg white
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Directions for the Saffron Risotto: Start by putting the stock in a pot and heat until hot. The stock has to be hot all the time while you are cooking risotto, so that the rice temperature does not drop when you add the stock to it.
- Put the finely chopped onion and the extra virgin olive oil in a pot and let it cook on a slow (low) heat, until the onion becomes soft and transparent.
- Add the rice, mix well and let it cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the rice becomes translucent.
- Now pour in the white wine and let the alcohol burn off by cooking on a high flame.
- Then add enough stock to cover the rice and turn the heat to medium-low.
- Keep cooking, occasionally stirring the rice and adding stock little by little, until the rice is a little more than half cooked. It is going to take about 13 minutes (NOTE – the rice HAS to be undercooked at this stage as it will keep cooking until it cools down completely. By the end of the process it will be just right).
- After approximately 8 minutes add the saffron and keep cooking.
- After the 13 minutes are up, turn the heat off and add the butter and Parmigiano Reggiano to your risotto. Mix very well, until it becomes creamy, but dry (if it’s too moist, you will have a hard time making balls out of it). Check for salt and season to your liking. Let it cool down.
- Directions for the meat sauce: Finely dice the onion, carrot and celery and put them in a pot with the extra virgin olive oil. Let them fry on slow heat till soft (but not brown).
- Then add the mince and the sausage (without skin) and stir well. Make sure to break the mince and sausage so that there are no lumps and it all browns well.
- Raise the heat a little bit and add the red wine.
- When the alcohol has evaporated add salt, the peppercorns and the tomato puree.
- Add 4 glasses (1 litre) of water and the salt and stir. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for at least 1 hour (the more the better).
- When almost cooked add the frozen peas and let them cook. Add water if needed (or reduce the excess water) until the right consistency is achieved. It has to be quite thick to make stuffing easier.
- Directions for assembly: When the rice has cooled down, make 10 to 12 balls with it and then open them by putting your thumb in one side. The hole has to be quite large to allow you to fill them as much as possible with the stuffing.
- Fill them with 1 tablespoon of meat sauce. Add some cubed fresh mozzarella and mortadella/bologna (optional) and close the balls with your hands and keep them aside.
- Roll them in egg white (slightly beaten with the fork) and then in a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs (half and half).
- Shallow fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. Serve warm.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting