What’s better than one nonna in the kitchen? Four nonnas in the kitchen!
Last week we had a “nonnathon”. It was an awesome day. Altogether, we prepared 6 of our favourite traditional Italian dishes and we will be posting them in the upcoming couple of weeks. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. Thanks to the wonderful nonnas that shared their kitchen secrets with us!
The first dish we bring you is Arancini. In Italian, arancia means orange so they are appropriately named as their shape is often round and their colour when cooked resembles an orange. Information tells us that they originated in Sicily and in some parts of Sicily these scrumptious filled rice balls have more of a cone shape. Nonna Sebastiana comes from an area in Italy close to Rome where they are commonly referred to as suppli and she also prepares them cone-shaped. This is a favorite in her family so when she makes them, she makes a lot! If you’re going to prepare a large batch, they do freeze well. Make them as you normally would and once fried and cooled, place in a food safe airtight container then place in the freezer. Great for a surprise snack for grandchildren, and big kids too:)
Not all rice is the same! You’ll see in the recipe that it calls for arborio rice and this cannot be substituted. Arborio rice is a short grain rice that at one time was grown exclusively in Italy. It is reknowned for its high starch content and is therefore great for a creamy risotto or in this case, holding its form and not going mushy.
You will find that the stuffing in the rice balls varies from region to region in Italy. Some of the fillings you may find include meat with tomato sauce, peas, mozzarella and some fill them with mushrooms. In Italy, Arancini are a go to fast food and are as popular as a hot dog at a ball game.
Great as an appetizer or starter, they are best when eaten immediately after cooking so that the middle is all melted! Serve them other their own or with a dollop of warm tomato sauce.
- 1 1/2 pounds arborio rice
- 4 cups tomato sauce with ground beef (see below for recipe)
- 1/8 pound of butter, softened
- 2/3 cup parmesan cheese
- 4 large eggs beaten with a fork
- 8 cups (approx) bread crumbs for coating (place some at a time onto a flat large dish)
- 500gm mozzarella (cut into 1/4” cubes) or can use small bocconcini
- canola or vegetable oil (for frying)
Ingredients for the sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 medium carrot cut into large chunks
- 1/4 onion cut into large chunks
- 1 medium celery stalk cut into large chunks
- 1 litre canned whole tomatoes, skins off and processed in a blender until smooth
Make the tomato sauce
- In a pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the ground beef, garlic, carrot, onion and celery pieces and cook until beef is browned. Keep breaking up the beef as it cooks to form small bits. Once the meat is browned, add the tomatoes. Let the sauce come to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low heat, cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once cooked, remove the garlic, carrot, onion and celery pieces.
- Cook the rice in plenty of salted water for 12 minutes (until al dente) then drain and spread out onto a tray. While the rice is still warm, add the sauce, parmesan cheese and butter and mix well until uniform.
- Let this mixture cool completely.
- Then add the eggs and again mix well.
- To form the arancini, take about 1/3 cup of rice mixture and with your hands, shape it into a small ball.
- Make a well in the centre of the rice ball and insert a couple mozzarella cubes.
- Work the rice so that it completely encloses the cheese and re-shape into a smooth ball. You want to make sure that the arancini at this point are firm so they do not fall apart while cooking.
- Once all of the rice balls are formed, roll them one at a time in the bread crumbs and press lightly to coat.
- Place them on a clean baking sheet
- Put enough oil into a heavy-bottom pan to fully submerge the rice balls
- Place the oil over high heat. Check that the oil is ready by carefully dipping one rice ball in. It should be a lively but steady sizzle.
- When the oil is to temperature, carefully add in a batch of the rice balls (do not overcrowd).
- Let the rice balls fry in the oil, turning as necessary, until golden brown on all sides (about 5 minutes).
- With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked rice balls from the oil and place on a paper towel lined baking sheet.