So, you made your risotto last night, there’s a tub of it in the fridge (cause with risotto, there always seems to be twice as much as you need) and you want a little more out of dinner than the same thing you had yesterday, reheated.
The answer: Arancini.
In common with the Japanese, the Italians are masters of taking yesterday’s rice, wrapping it around something and calling it today’s dinner. In Italy though, they go one step further and take that most reliable road to deliciousness; coating a thing in breadcrumbs then deep frying it.
A well stocked store cupboard should render a grand trip to the shops unnecessary, though you could be forgiven for not having the mozzarella to hand. If you don’t though, reach for something else; another melty cheese like taleggio or gruyere, or maybe even a crumb blue or goats’ cheese might work, as would a blob of leftover ragu or beef stew. Or, you could take a cue from the Japanese, and put some wilted greens or savoy cabbage in there. Basically, I see no reason not to rescue something languishing at the back of the fridge here and save it from ending up in the bin.
Also, a word on breadcrumbs: They’re the type of thing, like stock, that recipe authors can get terribly uppity about. For my money, the important thing is that you cook something, rather than don’t so use whatever breadcrumbs you have to hand. For the record though, my breadcrumb chart countdown is as follows:
1 – Home made breadcrumbs from a stale loaf, preferably white sourdough. Every enthusiastic home baker surely has a bag of them in the freezer.
2 – Panko, which in this enlightened age are probably available at your local supermarket. They’re almost the equal of number 1, but suffer from not being free. They’re what I used here though, cause they’re what I had, and they really provide a delicious crispy coating.
3 – Those alarmingly orange breadcrumbs that come in a tube with a plastic lid. These are very fine, and I suspect not really breadcrumbs at all. Two things can be said for them: they remind one of childhood, and they do the job of creating a barrier between what you’re frying and the oil just fine. If you have nothing else, use them.
We had these alongside a green salad, some batons of cucumber and carrot for the children and an entirely inauthentically deployed but delicious tahini sauce which can be found HERE. I do feel these need some kind of sauce, but use whatever you like, honestly.
You will need:
- Some leftover risotto
- A ball of mozzarella, and not a fancy one, cut into 1-2cm dice
- A plate of plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
- An egg (with another in reserve for if you run out), whisked on a second plate
- Some breadcrumbs, on a third plate
- A wok filled two thirds of the way up with a frying oil like rapeseed, sunflower or peanut
Clean your hands thoroughly (you don’t need to be told this, of course) and spread a thin layer of risotto across your palm. Pop a cube of cheese in the middle, then tightly form the risotto into a golfball sized sphere around it. Roll it in the flour til lightly coated, then dip in the egg til covered, before finally rolling it in the breadcrumbs, coating it all over. set it aside, and repeat until you’ve used up all your leftover risotto.
Heat your oil to 180ºC (if you’re a regular fryer, absolutely invest in a kitchen thermometer. It’s extremely useful for monitoring the heat of frying oil, which has a habit of going up and down like mad) or until a breadcrumb sizzles pleasingly when you drop it in. carefully lower a batch of rice balls into the oil, avoiding overcrowding the pan, and fry for a few minutes, turning regularly with tongs or a slotted spoon, until deep golden brown all over. Remove to a warm plate lined with kitchen paper, or a sieve (I tend to keep either in a 50ºC oven and remove the arancini to there) and repeat the process til all the balls are cooked.
Whilst they fry, you should have time to assemble a salad to have on the side.
Serve up, preferably family-style, in a bowl in the middle of the table, scattered with lemon wedges, and dig in as soon as possible, whilst everything is crisp, hot and gooey in the middle. There really is nothing like them. One of the great leftovers dinners, in both my book, and my family’s.