As much as we like experimenting in the kitchen, there are times when you want to make an impression without any of the risk. For some, it means using a tried and true family recipe. Others look to a trusted chef like Chicago chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due and make his Sicilian Saffron Risotto Cakes with Meat Ragù.
Risotto cakes are also known as arancini, or stuffed rice balls which are coated with breadcrumbs and fried. Also known as “little oranges” in Italian (due to their shape), arancini are found all over Italy but are especially popular in the south, where oranges are a major crop.
Available both in restaurants and at street stands, arancini are delicious either piping hot or at room temperature. They’re completely customizable, so you can make them larger and serve as a first course or make them even smaller than usual and serve them on appetizer trays.
Pro Tip: when you’re working with the cooled risotto mixture, keep it from becoming too sticky to work with by using one hand to hold and shape the rice, while keeping the other hand somewhat clean for handling a spoon.
- 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
- 1 small onion diced
- 2 & ½ cups saffron broth (one pinch of saffron heated in chicken broth)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ cup white wine
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Sea salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup meat ragu chilled (you can use Bolognese or your favorite meat sauce)
- ¼ cup flour
- 3 eggs beaten (egg wash)
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- In a large (risotto) pot, heat the olive oil and onions. Cook about three minutes stirring constantly. De glaze the pan with white wine.
- Add the rice and cook for another three minutes, stirring constantly. Add half of the saffron broth and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Stir constantly to make the rice creamy. Keep adding the broth in small parts until the rice is cooked through.
- When the rice is done (which should take about 17 minutes start to finish) shut the flame off and add the remaining butter and cheese, stirring constantly.
- Adjust the seasoning and place on a flat surface to cool.
- Once the rice is chilled, form it into small bite size balls and stuff with a small spoon full of meat ragu, Make sure the rice is covering all sides of the ball. Continue until all the rice has been formed into bite size balls.
- Roll them in flour, dip them into egg wash and then finally bread crumbs Make sure they are evenly coated.
- Fry the balls for 2 minutes in 350 degree oil. When they are done place them on a towel to drain excess oil and then season with sea salt and serve.