Throughout the centuries Sicily has been conquered by several cultures. The Greeks, the Romans, the Normans, the Arabs and the Spaniards they all enriched this beautiful island. And this is particularly true when it comes to the Sicilian cuisine.
The Arabs in particular brought rice and spices never seen before, together with oranges and lemons.
The famous Sicilian dish, Arancini, comes from the Arabic habit of eating rice spiced with saffron and enriched with meat, an important dish during feasts, eaten with hands. The Norman emperor Frederich the Second also loved this dish, but he had a problem: he wanted to bring it with him in his hunting trips. To solve this problems his cook thought of frying the balls of rice, so that a crunchy crust would protect the rice during the trip. It is from here that the modern Arancini, literally small orange, has become famous in the world.
Arancini are basically fried balls of rice, spiced with saffron and filled with meat and tomato sauce (brought to Italy after the discovery of America), that is what we call Sugo. Obviously creativity has no limits and the arancini are now filled with any possible ingredient imaginable.
Min Min always thinks that the original size of arancini is too big, normally 1 piece is more than enough to make her feel full. So we decided to make this modified mini version of arancini. It can be eaten as snacks or appetisers.
In order to prepare about 40 arancini we will need:
For the rice:
- 500 gr of rice for risotto
- Saffron (2 portions)
- 20 gr of butter
For the filling:
- 350 gr of sugo (feel free to follow our recipe: here)
- 120 gr of slightly salted cheese (usually caciocavallo)
- Stirred aubergines (one aubergine, 2 cloves of garlic and olive oil. Cut the aubergines in small cubes and fry them on a pan with abundant olive oil and the garlic. Once they are ready let them cool down.)
For the crust:
- A mix of flour and water (so called batter, or the tempura batter)
We start cooking the rice in 1.6 liters of water until all the water has been absorbed. During the process stir the rice to make sure that the cooking is homogeneous and the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Once the water has been absorbed add the saffron and the butter and mix all together. You will see the rice turning into a nice yellow colour.
Put the rice, still hot, on a wide surface and spread it until you make a layer and let it cool down.
Cut the cheese in small cubes and prepare the batter mixing water and flower until you have a thick cream.
In a big baking pan put abundant breadcrumbs, have the sugo at hand in a bowl and some cold water next by.
Now you are all set to start making the arancini.
We prepared three types: “al sugo”, with aubergines and just cheese.
For the Arancini al sugo: weigh 40 grams of rice and spread it on your hand. Wash your hands in the cold water to avoid the rice to stick on your skin. Add a teaspoon of sauce and 2 cubes of cheese. Then gently form a ball being careful not to squeeze too much the rice and letting the filling out.
We used two different ways: in the series above we took one single portion of rice, added the filling, and then gently rolled it in the palm of the hand until we made a ball with the filling sealed inside. But this is a bit hard to do, so we also tried a second way, using two portions of rice. Put the first portion on the palm of your hand, add the filling and then put the second portion on top and start rolling until sealed.
Once the ball is formed, put it first into the batter and then into the breadcrumbs making sure that the breadcrumbs cover the entire surface of the ball.
Repeat the same process with the other fillings until you’ve used all the rice and the fillings.
Now that you have all your arancini lined up, get ready for the deep frying. We used our loyal electric fryer, but a pot with abundant oil (sunflower seeds oil works just fine) will do the job. Deep fry the arancini until they reach a nice golden colour (like small oranges) and let them cool down for 10 minutes before eating them. You can certainly eat them right away, but be aware that the filling will be extremely hot.
If you cannot eat and/or fry all of them, you can either reduce the portions of the ingredients proportionally or freeze the arancini before frying them.