My friend Anthony Bourdain used to say: “When you travel, always try to skip airplane meals, only a few things are as exciting as arriving hungry in a new place”.
Last summer, for the very first time, Debi and I traveled through Sicily with our daughters; as they are growing up, the level of adventure, and the excitement is becoming more “adult”, as we explore places we have never been together before. I will never forget our arrival at the Palermo airport around 2pm in a super hot summer day. After a quick flight from Florence we were eager to jump on our rental car and drive straight to Scopello (one of the most beautiful places in the world), where we had reserved our little apartment in an old tuna fishing farm.
Makes: 12-14 / Prep Time: 20 mins / Inactive Time: 2 hours / Cooking Time: 10-15 mins
FOR THE RICE
- 1 lb Risotto rice (traditional, Vialone Nano)
- 6 cups of water
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano (traditional, Caciocavallo)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp Saffron
FOR THE FILLING
- 1 oz unsmoked ham (prosciutto cotto), cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 2 oz mozzarella, cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- FOR “LA PASTELLA”
- 1.5 cup of flour
- 1.25 cup of water
- 2 cups breadcrumbs, unseasoned
- vegetable oil
- Bring water to a boil, stir in rice and let cook until most water is absorbed. Infuse the saffron in a 1/2 cup of warm water and add to the rice, along with the butter, the grated cheese and a pinch of salt. Cook until all water has been absorbed, and rice is sticky and of golden color.
- Spread the rice on a large sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap to prevent from drying. Let cool off for about 2 hours.
- In a medium size bowl, mix together flour and water to make the traditional Pastella, season lightly with a pinch of salt and mix until smooth.
- Heat the vegetable oil to 150C/302F. If you don’t have a frying thermometer you can use the old trick of dipping in the oil a wooden spoon; if air bubbles escape the wood as if it was frying, you are at a good enough temperature to start.
- Collect a handful of rice in the palm of your hand, shape like a half cup and fill with a few pieces of prosciutto, cheese and a sprinkle of parsley, wrap the rice around it and shape into a ball.
- One at the time, to give you the right pace, since you will have to fry in batches, roll a rice ball into the Pastella mix, shake gently and then roll into the breadcrumbs.
- Gently slide the ball into the oil and fry until golden and crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Do not fry more than 2-3 arancini at the time or the temperature of the oil will drop and the filling won’t melt properly.
- Let the Arancini cool off on a rack or on a sheet pan lined with butcher paper for a few minutes before serving.
- If you are entertaining and or feeding children, always test the temperature inside by slicing one in half. This balls are true fire if you rush eating them.