10-12 rice balls
4 Cups of left over Mushroom and Pea Risotto (or freshly cooked and chilled)
3 Oz. Mozzarella, cut into small cubes (do not use fresh mozzarella)
3/4 Cup Panko
3/4 Cup Italian flavored dry breadcrumbs
1/2 Cup Wondra Flour
3 Large eggs
Kosher Salt and Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil, for frying
Parmesan cheese, grated (to finish)
1 Cup Marinara sauce, to serve
1) Note the cooking time does not include making the risotto or marinara sauce. This recipe assumes sauce and risotto are already cooked.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. In a large bowl, add your chilled mushroom and pea risotto and one egg. Mix well. The egg will help bind the rice together when forming the risotto balls. Scoop about ¼ cup of the risotto into your hands and form into a small patty. Place 2–3 small pieces of mozzarella in the center of patty. Add about a tablespoon of the risotto on top of the cheese then carefully shape risotto around the cheese so it completely encases the cheese and you create a ball. Shape into a 2 inch ball by gently squeezing so the risotto sticks together and completely covers that cheese. (Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. They firm up when in the freezer and even out a bit when dredged in the breadcrumbs.) Place the risotto balls on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining risotto and mozzarella. Place the baking sheet in the freezer and chill for 10 – 15 minutes to firm up.
2) Meanwhile, mix the panko with the seasoned bread crumbs. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and mix again. Place the Wondra flour in another shallow bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and mix. Lightly beat the eggs with a tablespoon of water in a third shallow bowl to blend; season with salt and pepper.
3) Working one at a time, dredge these Italian rice balls in the flour, shaking off excess. Then roll the risotto ball in the egg wash letting the excess drip off and finally roll in the breadcrumbs. Press gently to make sure each ball has a good coating of the panko and breadcrumb mix. Transfer each breaded ball back to the parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the freezer for 5 – 10 minutes to set up.
4) Pour oil into a medium heavy pot, or cast iron skillet with 2-inch sides. Have a thermometer on hand. You want about 2 inches of oil in the pot or skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Carefully lower half of risotto balls into oil with a slotted spoon and fry until a deep golden brown, 6–8 minutes. You’ll want to turn them regularly so all sides are browning evenly. Transfer to paper towels to drain; season with salt immediately after removing from the oil. Repeat with remaining risotto balls. Serve warm on a platter or serving board. Grate some parmesan on top and serve with sauce on the side. Enjoy!
NOTES: Leftovers never tasted so good! My Mushroom and Pea Arancini are made from my left over Mushroom and Pea Risotto. Not to worry, you can always make the risotto fresh, and chill it over night. Then, you are simply assembling the arancini the next day. You can also make arancini using plain risotto. The key is that it is made ahead and chilled well before forming into the risotto balls.
These Italian rice balls are a family favorite and the perfect appetizer to any meal. I’ll make these in advance and keep them in the freezer in zip lock bags until I’m ready to use them. If you do freeze them, let them sit on the kitchen counter for about 20 minutes before frying and do use a large pot so you are deep frying them so they cooking evenly and the centers are warm.
When forming the Italian arancini, you may have to make one or two to get the hang of it but don’t worry, no one is watching! I find that if you create that flat patty first, top with cheese and place more risotto on top of the cheese it helps get the cheese covered and helps you squeeze the rice into a ball shape. Don’t get frustrated if there is rice or peas falling while you are forming the balls. That’s normal and it will all work out once the rice balls are chilled in the freezer, rolled in the breading and set up. It they aren’t perfectly round, who cares? They taste great even if they aren’t a perfect circle.
When dredging your arancini in the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs, be gentle so you don’t break them apart. If they’ve be frozen long enough, they should be firm enough and stay together. A note on the flour. I use Wondra since it is a finely ground flour and I find it doesn’t clump as much as regular flour. I like the thin coating it provides. It is also perfectly fine to use all purpose flour in this recipe.
The second chill in the freeze is important to let the risotto balls completely chill and adhere to that coating. You can leave them longer than 10 minutes if you like but not more than 1/2 hour if you are planning to cook right away.
Make sure your oil is very hot (350 degrees). Otherwise, you’ll have a “bad fry”. The risotto balls will soak up too much of the oil and get greasy. If the temperature is right, they will fry up light and golden brown and stay crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. If you are using a cast iron pan rather than deep frying them in a pot, be sure to turn them regularly so they brown evenly on all sides.
Once you remove them to the paper towels, be sure to salt them immediately. Warm your marinara sauce on the stove or in the microwave. I use my own Marinara Sauce but you can always use a good quality store bought brand such as Rao’s Marinara or serve with another favorite dipping sauce.
A couple of notes on making the risotto.
. Use a short grain, starchy rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli.
. You can make plain risotto or a difference flavored risotto. Just be sure it is chilled completely and then an egg is added to help bind the rice.
. Left over risotto is perfect for this dish but if you are making it fresh, be sure you chill it completely in the refrigerator before attempting to add egg, stuff with cheese and roll the balls. It needs that time to firm up.
If you like this Italian rice ball recipe, be sure you try some of my other Italian style appetizer recipes.