May it Please the Palate: Is any other part of the arancini edible?


There I was, at yet another fundraiser, with the usual array of tired hors d’oeuvres, forgotten at the end of the room. Nonetheless, having not eaten dinner, I wandered over to inspect-igate. There were the vegetables and dip, the leathery beef skewers, the egg-rolly thing with the wiggly sauce.

But what was this new thing? The notecard read unhelpfully, “Vegetarian.” The morsels were croquette-like in shape, with a teardrop of something superfluous and orange on top. Being an eat-first, ask-questions-later kind of guy, I did exactly that. I was rewarded with a flavor explosion of molten, melty goodness.

I scurried over to the energetic server – only slightly faster than her own scurrying – and breathlessly asked “What is that?” “Arancini balls,” she smiled. (*Whereupon I was reminded of the old joke, when a person tasting a Matzo ball for the first time, thoughtfully asked, “Is any other part of the Matzo edible?”) The server further explained they were also known as risotto balls.

Why did I not know about these? Why are they not in my repertoire? Sicilian in origin, arancini are often made with leftover risotto. They are traditionally served on the feast day of Santa Lucia, December 13, when bread and pasta are not eaten. (No matter that arancini are rolled in bread crumbs, why bother with details to a starving Sicilian?)

I would here give you Mario Batali’s recipe for arancini, but my editors would have to lengthen this paper by several inches. I will synopsize it for you, by assuming you can make a passable risotto and a ragu (meat sauce, traditionally made with veal). Or you can simplify it by adding ingredients to your risotto, such as peas and cheese, and/or walnuts and mushrooms, and skipping the separate ragu stage).

This will be one of those recipes handed down from family members, that skip silly details like actual ingredients and quantities.
Arancini, synopsized

1. Make a passable risotto

2. Make a workaday ragu

3. After the above two ingredients are cool to the touch, place a quantity of rice into the palm of one hand and use the fingers of your other hand to form a cup-like mound of rice.

4. Place a portion of the ragu (or other filling) into the rice cup, then gently fold the outer edges of the rice over to cover it, completely enclosing it. You should have a ball of stuffed rice and there should not be any ragu leaking out. You may need to add a little more rice to keep close the ball.

5. Set the arancini aside and use the remaining rice and the remaining ragu to make additional balls.

6. Alternative – skip steps 2-5 and just roll your risotto into balls.

7. Roll each finished ball carefully through beaten egg whites, then dredge through seasoned breadcrumbs. Place the arancini on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

8. In the meantime, heat 4 inches of cooking oil in fryer or deep frying pan to 375 F. When the oil has reached temperature and the arancini have had time to cool, fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring with tongs or kitchen spoon to keep them moving.

9. Drained cooked balls on paper towels and place on large platter. Serve immediately.

Lesson learned: eat first, ask questions later. You will often be rewarded.
Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. Follow him at @nickroumel.