These crispy arancini, filled with a bit of chopped spinach, parmesan, and sun-dried tomato, make for a scrumptious two-bite morsel—they’re irresistible!
Risotto Becomes Arancini with a Bit of Extra Love
Whenever I think of risotto, the phrase “patience is a virtue” comes to mind.
Wonderfully cozy, risotto—the Italian arborio rice dish prepared by adding ladlefuls of stock incrementally and stirring frequently until it becomes thickened and creamy—does require a little bit of extra time and care. But the finished dish tastes like love in a bowl, and the list of add-ins and finishing touches, is endless.
And a bit like polenta, once cooled and firmed, risotto can be turned into yet another creative presentation, one where spoonfuls are rolled into balls around a tiny piece of fresh, creamy mozzarella cheese, then breaded and lightly fried to crisp perfection, making for a unique, scrumptious, and crispy arancini recipe.
The Colors of the Holidays in Two-Bite Crispy Arancini
During this time of year, with holiday parties being planned, and New Year’s Eve coming up, many of us are looking for tasty appetizers and finger foods to prepare and offer up.
Simple, yet divinely delicious, these crispy arancini will deliver, and then some!
The colors are the classic colors of the season, red and green, and the flavor is savory with those delicious, gooey strings of melted mozzarella throughout.
The precious way that these crispy arancini look on a platter, with perhaps a little toothpick for convenient pick-up, makes these that much more inviting to nibble on and enjoy, one or two bites at a time, dipped in some simple, homemade marinara.
Part of the fun of the holidays, for me, is giving an extra sprinkle of love and care to the food that I prepare and share; after all, this should be a time of consciousness, gratitude, love, and giving.
I promise you that your intention to share something a little different and a bit special will definitely be tasted in these crispy little bites—your love can be that “secret ingredient”.
Tips & Tidbits for Crispy Arancini
- Arborio rice is best: There really is no substitute for the arborio rice, and you must first make the risotto. It is very starchy which makes for creamy risotto, and this helps the arancini to stay together.
- Chill your risotto: I find the best method to quickly cool the risotto down is to pour and spread it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop it into the fridge for about 20-30 minutes; it’s much easier to roll into balls at a cooler temp.
- Make these ahead: These are actually ideal to make ahead…
- Prepare the risotto and then let it cool
- then, scoop it into 1 ½ tablespoon-size portions and shape around a small piece of mozzarella to make a small ball
- and finally, bread and set the bites onto a small tray or baking sheet, wrap it in plastic, and place into the fridge until you’re ready to fry and serve.
- Fresh baby spinach: I recommend using fresh baby spinach leaves that you chop rather than frozen, as you don’t want the extra water. When you add in the fresh at the end of making your risotto, it will just simply wilt into the warm risotto, and not release any extra water.
- Substitute other breadcrumbs for the panko, or make them gluten-free: Panko is nice and crispy for this recipe, but you can certainly use traditional breadcrumbs, or even gluten-free breadcrumbs like “Udi’s” brand (and use cornstarch or rice flour instead of all-purpose) to make these gluten free.
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
Crispy Arancini with Mozzarella, Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes 25 arancini
Prep Time: 15 minutes*
Cook time: 1 hour**
(*Once the risotto is cooked, there is a “chill” time of about 20-30 minutes needed for the risotto to cool before you roll it into balls.)
(**35 minutes to cook the risotto, and 25 minutes to fry the bites.)
• 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 small onion, finely diced
• 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press (link: Rowav Garlic Press)
• 1 cup arborio rice
• Black pepper
• 1/2 cup white wine (I like Pinot Grigio for this)
• 3 1/2 cups chicken stock (it should be hot)
• 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 1 (heaping) cup baby spinach leaves, chopped
• 1/4 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes (if in oil, pat them dry)
• 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
• 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, patted dry of liquid, and diced into tiny, 1/2” cubes
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 eggs, whisked
• 1 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
• Vegetable oil, for frying
• Simple Marinara Sauce, for dipping (optional)
-To prepare the risotto, place a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat, and add in the butter; once melted, add in the diced onion and saute for a few minutes just until softened; add in the garlic and stir.
-Add in the arborio rice, plus a small pinch of salt and pepper, and stir to combine and toast; add in the white wine, and allow it to reduce for a moment; once reduced, begin adding about a ladle and a half of the hot chicken stock into the rice in increments, stirring for a moment to incorporate, allowing the stock to absorb; add more once the stock is almost completely absorbed, stirring the risotto occasionally to create a creamy texture, using up all the stock until the rice is soft yet still has a slight bite to it (this should take about 25-30 minutes).
-Once the risotto is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, the chopped baby spinach leaves and sun-dried tomatoes, plus the parsley (and optional pinch of red pepper flakes); line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the risotto onto the parchment, smoothing and spreading it to cool quickly (I place mine into the fridge for about 20-30 minutes to cool quicker).
-Once the risotto is cooled, using a 1 ½ tablespoon-size scoop (I use my cookie scoop), scoop out portions (you should get 25); then, press a tiny cube of mozzarella into the center of each, enclosing it in the risotto; roll each, like a meatball, into a ball-shape.
-Dip each ball into the flour, then the whisked egg, then the panko breadcrumbs.
-Fill a large pan or a medium pot with about 3” of vegetable oil, or enough so that the bites can be fairly submerged when fried, and set over medium-high heat; once the oil is hot (you can test by dropping a tiny bit of panko in to see if it sizzles—it should be about 360°), add a batch of arancini in and fry until golden-brown on all sides, about 2 minutes; drain on a wire rack.
-Serve warm or room temp with a little toothpick for convenience, on their own or with simple marinara sauce on the side.