The Best Saffron Arancini starts with a really good risotto. If I’m planning on making these deep-fried Italian rice balls, we’ll have risotto for supper the night before, in which case, I double the recipe. When making the risotto, feel free to add your favourite herbs, like thyme or rosemary. I’ve included a risotto recipe at the end of this post, just in case you need it. It’s simple but bankable.
Risotto Milanese is traditionally made with saffron and served with Osso Buco. It also makes the perfect base for these stuffed arancini. Do go sparingly with the saffron though as it can easily overwhelm all the other flavours. It needs to be subtle but present. For a vegetarian version, omit the chorizo and replace with rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Chop them up finely and add to the risotto mixture. They’re meaty and delicious. Here, the recipe calls for chorizo although you can easily substitute with pancetta or smoked bacon. I stuff the centres with creamy mozzarella because who doesn’t like cheese? The mozzarella turns molten when fried, as one would expect. For extra crunch, I coat the arancini in panko breadcrumbs. I think you’re going to love them! Although the arancini needs absolutely nothing to make it outstanding, a little tomato-ish dipping sauce is rather lovely.
Best Saffron Arancini
For the risotto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 50g chorizo sausage, roughly chopped into small pieces (almost like mince)
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 leek washed, halved and finely diced
- 2 stems fresh thyme, de-stalked
- zest of half a lemon
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 80ml white wine
- 1 litre (4 cups) hot chicken or vegetable stock, if vegetarian
- a good pinch of saffron threads or 1/4 teaspoon saffron powder
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons butter
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the arancini
- 100g mozzarella, cut into 1 cm cubes
- 2 -3 eggs, lightly whisked
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
- 1 cup crushed panko crumbs
- 1 litre vegetable oil, for frying
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan. Add the chorizo and cook for several minutes until the red oils. Remove and set aside.
- Pour the stock into a separate saucepan, add the saffron threads and place on the heat to keep warm.
- Add the shallots to the pan and sauté until softened. Add the leeks, thyme and lemon zest and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat in the buttery oils. Toast for about a minute.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce by half.
- Now add the hot chicken stock, one ladle at a time allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding the next ladle. Stir continuously to agitate the rice.
- Once all the stock is used up the risotto should be al dente. Cooking time is between 22-25 minutes. If the rice is not yet cooked, add a little extra water.
- Add the chorizo, parmesan and 2 tablespoons butter to the risotto. Season with black pepper. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- For the arancini, combine the breadcrumbs and panko crumbs. Place the eggs, flour and crumbs into three separate bowls.
- Roll tablespoon amounts of risotto into balls. Press slightly to flatten, then place a piece of mozzarella in the centre. Close and roll into a ball. Repeat until you’ve used all the risotto mixture.
- In a deep saucepan, heat the oil to 180º C.
- Dredge the arancini in flour. Dip in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Place gently in the oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until golden. Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Drain on paper towels and eat while still warm and the cheese is molten inside.
Here is the risotto recipe I mentioned. You could also try the Instant Pot version. It’s hands-free cooking at its best.
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