Pecorino & Thyme Arancini: A Simple Recipe to Make Cheesy Italian Rice Balls
Arancini are a classic Sicilian snack, or as the Italians say, aperetivo. Since there are many different types, some more difficult to make than others, this recipe is on the simpler side and aimed at first time arancini-makers.
Makes ~20 arancini.
400g arborio rice
100ml dry white wine
1 small onion, very finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed gently with the back of a knife
6 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of lightly salted water
100g quality pecorino cheese, finely grated
1 small bunch of fresh thyme, about 20 sprigs, with the leaves pulled from the sprigs
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup plain flour
What you need to do:
1. Start your risotto (rice filling). To get your risotto started add a generous splash of oil to a non-stick pan over low heat. Once it starts to warm up, add the butter, onion, garlic, and thyme. Cook until everything is fragrant and soft, but not browned.
2. Add rice to your onion mixture. Add the rice, stirring occasionally and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Once it becomes glossy, add the wine and stir until it reduces down.
3. Meanwhile… Heat your stock over the stove. Grab a ladle.
4. Cook the risotto. Cooking the risotto will take ~20 - 25 minutes, so this is the time to roll up your sleeves and put on a good playlist. Add 1 ladle from your stock pot to the rice, and stir slowly with a wooden spoon until the liquid dissolves. Repeat, 1 ladle at a time, until all your stock is gone.
Once your stock pot is empty, add 2 cups of boiling water, lightly salted as if you were about to boil pasta. Continue to add the water to the rice (you guessed it, 1 ladle at a time) until the rice is cooked through.
5. Finish your risotto. Take the risotto off the heat and stir through the grated pecorino. Let it cool completely.
6. Setup your crumbing station. Your crumbing station should contain 1 shallow bowl of egg (lightly whisked), 1 shallow bowl of breadcrumbs and 1 shallow bowl of flour. Follow the following steps to make your arancini.
Roll your risotto into small balls. Roll the rice into small balls (about the size of a golf ball) and place them on a tray or large plate. Wash your hands to remove the stickiness.
Coat each ball in flour. Next, roll each ball through the flour bowl so they are lightly coated.
Roll the coated balls in egg and breadcrumbs. Take one of the flour-coated rice balls, dip it in the egg bowl until it’s fully coated (I like to do this step with tongs) and then drop it into the breadcrumb bowl straight away. Once it’s fully coated with breadcrumbs, re-roll it into a perfect ball shape. Continue until all the arancini are done. Place them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so the shape solidifies.
7. Cook your arancini. There are three ways you can cook arancini at home:
Deep fry them with vegetable oil. If using this method, which will hold the shape of the arancini the best, heat the oil until it reaches 180 degrees celsius and fry them for a few minutes or until golden brown.
Shallow fry them in a pan. Line a try with 1-2cm of oil and fry, turning until golden on each side.
Bake them. Place the arancini is a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Vibe up and serve. As an ode to the dreamy seaside vibes of Sicily – serve with lemon wedges, homemade aioli or pesto and an Aperol spritz or a glass of chilled wine.