Ham and Cheese Arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls)

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Authentic Sicilian Arancini with an American Twist!

 

There are few things in life as exciting and fulfilling as cooking and eating, and I am incredibly lucky that I was able to do both while enjoying the gorgeous countryside that Sicily has to boast.

 

I was lucky enough to be invited to Sicily on a week-long “cooking-vacation” back in 2014. IT. WAS. AMAZING. It’s the only time I have ever been out of the United States and it was a beautiful, exciting, exhilarating, and wondrous experience. The schedule went something like this: Wake up; be served the most amazing breakfast on the porch of our Villa on the coast of Favignana (they had a delicious almond breakfast tart that I ate almost EVERY MORNING); attend a 4-hour cooking class hosted by various chefs and bakers on the island; explore the Sicilian countryside; end with a 5-hour, several-course meal that would typically start at 7pm and end past midnight… it was pure culinary bliss. And I learned a great deal about the local history and people along the way (not to mention the cuisine!) and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity!

 

Along with eating the local cuisine, drinking through several bottles of wine (I wasn’t 21 yet in the states, but in Sicily the drinking age was 16 and by golly, if you didn’t have a glass of wine in your hand at all times, you were considered to “not be having a good time”), and feeling absolutely stuffed at all hours of the day, the best part of the vacation was getting to take home a very special recipe book that was centered around all the recipes we got to make during the day. It was printed on regular printer paper in black and white, stapled together on one side with our names written in the top right corner, and promptly stained with the grease of our buttered fingers turning the pages trying to learn how to make authentic cannoli’s and eggplant Parmesan…. I have since taken much better care of it and a little more than 6 years later, I have it sitting on the self with the rest of our favorite cookbooks.

 

Arancini was my absolute favorite Sicilian dish we learned to make.

The arancini we made in Sicily had a filling of tomato sauce, onions and peas but for this recipe I opted for Ham and Cheese and a few extra spices, creating a classic American twist on a traditional Sicilian beauty, and they are D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S! You make a risotto first, which will later be turned into the vessel in which your filling will be fried…. and voila, you have arancini! Grazie!

 

 

 

What you will need for the Risotto:

  • Arborio Rice (I can find this in the rice section at my usual grocery store)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pinot Grigio or any white wine you have on hand
  • Chicken Stock
  • Kosher Salt
  • Paprika
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Egg

For the Filling:

  • Deli Ham (you can use the ham that is already pre-cubed, but we had some deli meat left over that I needed to use)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese (We shredded it ourselves)
  • Shredded Gruyere Cheese (Also shredded this ourselves)
  • American Cheese Slices

For the Breading:

  • Flour
  • Plain Breadcrumbs
  • Paprika
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Black Pepper
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable Oil for frying

 

 

Ham and Cheese Arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls)

A delicious American twist on a classic Sicilian Dish
Course Appetizer, Brunch, hors d'oeuvres, Main Course, Party Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 12 Arancinis

Ingredients
  

Risotto

  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio Or any white wine
  • 32 oz Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder

Filling

  • 4 oz Diced Ham
  • 1.5 oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1.5 oz Shredded Gruyere Cheese
  • 2 slices American Cheese

Breading

  • Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Plain Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 Large Eggs

Instructions
 

For the Risotto

  • In a large skillet, heat your oil over medium high heat and add in your rice making sure to coat it all. Add in your white wine and continue stirring until the wine starts to evaporate.
  • Add in your chicken stock a little at a time, stirring occasionally, and let the rice soak up most of the stock between each addition. You will notice that the stock will sit on top of the rice right away, but after a few minutes your rice will thicken as it absorbs the liquid. Once all your stock is added, let the rice absorb all of the stock, and remove from the heat. You should end up with a slightly "sticky" al dente rice.
  • Add in your salt, spices and egg and mix with a spatula until well combined. Place in a container and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight (the colder the mixture, the easier it will be to roll into balls)

For the Filling

  • Into a medium bowl, shred your Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses with a grater (unless already shredded) and slice your American cheese slices into strips, then tear apart to mimic "shredded" cheese and add to bowl.
  • Dice your ham (unless already diced) and add to the cheese. Set Aside.

Assemble the Arancini Balls

  • Once your risotto has chilled, using your impeccably clean hands, press a handful of rice into the palm of your hand and add 2 tablespoons of your filling. Top with another handful of rice and form a ball. It is okay if you have filling all throughout your ball (pictured)- you don't need to have filling just in the center of the ball! The rice will be sticky, but you should still be able to form a cohesive, fist-sized ball.

For the Breading

  • In a small bowl, add your breadcrumbs and spices and mix thoroughly.
  • In a second small bowl, add in enough flour to coat your Arancini (I added about a cup)
  • In a third small bowl, whisk your eggs together.
  • Using your hands, coat your Arancini in the flour first, then the egg mixture, and lastly the breadcrumbs, making sure to coat the entire ball in each of the mixtures.
  • Heat your oil (about 1 1/2 inches high) to 350 degrees Fahrenheit on medium-high heat using a candy/oil thermometer. Add in your Arancini and fry on one side for 1- 2 minutes, or until golden brown, then flip the Arancini over and repeat the process on the other side. It will only take a few minutes per ball, so make sure not to burn them! If your oil temp starts to rise or fall, increase or decrease the temp to try and maintain the 350 degrees throughout the entire fry.
  • Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel, let cool for a few minutes, top with grated Parmesan (or extra Chedder and Gruyere!) and enjoy!
Keyword Arancini, Ham and Cheese, Rice Ball

 

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