I have always felt that sports and food go together like bread and butter and there is no better way to get your game on for March Madness than with arancini. If you are not familiar, arancini (which means little orange in Italian) are little rice balls that are coated with bread crumbs and fried. Often they are filled with a cheese (such as Mozzarella or Fontina) or a meat sauce and they originate from Sicily. They are called arancini (little oranges) because that is exactly what they look like after they have been fried. For as long as I can remember, I have loved arancini and even had the pleasure of having them in Italy on a few occasions. When I lived in California, I worked for a hotel that was home to an Italian restaurant that served arancini and I was blessed to be able to eat them almost daily. The first time I tried making them, it was a complete disaster. I think I was about 20 at the time and my little rice balls fell apart when I was trying to fry them and I got really discouraged. After some coaching from an Italian chef, I perfected my skills and have gotten much better at making them.
With March Madness in full swing, arancini are perfect for a basketball themed event (they do look like little basketballs) or to just enjoy on a quite night at home with a glass of CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio, which just so happens to be my favorite wine at the moment. After running three 5ks in the last three weeks, I decided to treat myself this past weekend to some Fontina stuffed arancini and a much deserved glass, or two-don’t judge, of wine. While my kids were spending time at a friend’s house, I savored the moment and got busy in the kitchen.
This recipe can be made two ways. 1. You can use pre-made risotto from an Italian deli or restaurant if you are in a time crunch or 2. Do as I do and make the risotto from scratch. Risotto is very easy to make but you MUST give yourself an hour without interruptions. Like my father always said, “risotto waits for no one” and boy was he right. When making risotto, you must be 100% focused. As you will see in the recipe below, there are many steps and one involves stirring the risotto as it absorbs all the liquid. This is one of the most important steps in the process and the last thing you want to do is burn or overcook the risotto. Trust me, I learned the hard way when I tried making it for the first time.
Once your risotto is finished, all you have to do is let it cool, add a few things to it and then form little balls that will chill for an hour before hitting the fryer. During this time, you can prep other things or relax with a good book and a glass of CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio. For this recipe, I kept the arancini simple and just stuffed them with Fontina cheese, but a nice ragu sauce inside is nice. If you are hosting a group, you can go with an Italian theme and make a pizza dip with chips to go along with your bountiful spread. One of my go-to recipes is for a Pepperoni Pizza Dip by fellow blogger Mary Ellen, of Recipes, Food & Cooking. You will definitely score points with your friends with these two dishes!
Another idea is to put together a nice and simple meat and cheese platter to go along with your arancini. Fontina is like buttah and excellent with a glass of wine and slice of pepperoni. If you are like me and frugal with your finances, you can save $3 on two bags of Bridgford Pepperoni with CK Mondavi’s special game day promotions (located on their wine bottles) through March 31, 2017. There is no wine purchase required, but I think CK Mondavi Wines really bring out the best flavors in foods.
As I mentioned, my favorite white wine at the moment is CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio and it is a must have at your next gathering. Their Sauvignon Blanc is my second favorite and both pair well with these arancini.
I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week and take some time this weekend to enjoy some CK Mondavi wine and perhaps these arancini. Ciao for now!
- 32 oz of chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots or one small onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 3/4 cups arborio rice
- 1/4 cup CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (you only need 1/2 cup now, reserve 2 cups for frying)
- Shredded Mozzarella or cubed Fontina cheese, about 4-5 oz
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a small saucepan, heat the chicken broth until it begins to simmer. Let it simmer while you begin to prepare the risotto.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the shallots (or onions) and garlic and sauté until translucent.
- Add the rice fry it with the shallots and garlic for about 2 minutes.
- Next, add the CK Mondavi Grigio and stir the rice until all of the liquid is absorbed.
- Once the wine has been absorbed, you can start adding the broth about ½ cup at a time. It is crucial that you constantly stir the rice while the broth absorbs and do not add additional broth until all the liquid has been absorbed into the rice. Now is the perfect time to pour a glass of CK Mondavi Grigio and do not leave the rice unattended. Trust me, I speak from experience and you do not want to burn the rice.The entire process will take about half an hour, or one glass of wine.
- After you have added last of the broth, remove the risotto from the heat and add the parmesan then add salt and pepper to taste.
- Finally, add the cold butter and stir until the butter has melted and all of the cheese and butter has been evenly incorporated into the risotto. Let the risotto cool completely before you begin to make the arancini. I prefer chilling it for about half an hour.
- Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and a shallow dish with about 2 cups of bread crumbs.
- With the chilled or cooled risotto, add the egg, ½ cup breadcrumbs and the finely chopped parsley. Put on some plastic gloves and form the risotto into 2-inch balls.Your mixture should yield about 18.
- With your finger, make a hole into the center of each arancini and stuff with the Fontina or Mozzarella cheese. Seal the risotto ball around the filling so the cheese is completely covered.
- Dip each ball into the dish of bread crumbs so that they are covered completely and place on the baking sheet. Once they are all coated, place the in the refrigerator for at least an hour or until ready to fry. Now is the perfect time to pour that second glass of wine.
- When you are ready to fry, take a Dutch oven or large pot and fill with enough oil to cover the arancini. The oil must be heated to 350 but not any hotter. Be careful, if the oil gets to hot you will burn the arancini.
- Fry the rice balls about 4 at a time until golden brown remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a dish lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
- Serve the arancini with marinara sauce either on the side or spoon the sauce onto a serving dish and place the arancini on top. Garnish with fresh basil or dust with grated Parmesan and enjoy!
Disclosure: As an ambassador for CK Mondavi Wines, this post was sponsored but as always, all opinions are my own. Cheers!