Mushroom and Cheese Arancini

November 9, 2015  •  Appetizers,

mushroom-aranciniSouthern Italians are many things: warm, friendly, and humble come to mind when I think back on the people I met on my recent trip to southern Italy and Sicily. They are also quite frugal, not only because of the history of poverty in this region, but because of the ongoing unemployment and challenges they face today. So wild greens like chicory are harvested and used in dishes like the famous orecchiette from Puglia. And leftovers aren’t wasted, which is I’m sure how arancini came to be. Nothing is quite such a sticky and unappealing mess as leftover risotto, but when you stick a small piece of cheese into a ball of it, roll it in breadcrumbs, then fry it, something magical happens. I used 2 cups of leftover risotto to make these 6 arancini, stuffing each one with a half-inch cube of fontina cheese and rolling them in plain dry breadcrumbs. I fried them in half canola oil and half peanut oil, at about 350 degrees until they are nicely browned. Really, that’s the only critical part of making arancini: don’t let the oil get too hot or you’ll burn the arancini before the insides heat through and melt the cheese. Sprinkle them with salt as you drain them on some paper towels and you’ve got a great appetizer that’s sure to please. And nothing wasted, just as the southern Italians would have it.

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