Decadent risotto rice balls with green salad

The risotto rice balls served with a lovely green salad.

Alex, our beloved daughter, and our new son-in-law, Wayne, celebrated their recent nuptials at an al fresco function on Saturday evening, and in true South African style, family and friends stepped in to make the occasion memorable.

It fell to beloved Elspeth and me, to produce some of the tasty finger food needed to feed the hungry masses. After much experimentation, Elspeth settled on spicy chicken strips and arancini di riso, aka risotto rice balls.

The spicy chicken strips are an old favourite, and really easy to make, but the arancini was something of a new adventure, and all credit must go to Elspeth for perfecting the recipe and creating a snack with which I have truly fallen in love. If I had my way, there would be a constant supply in the house on which to snack. At any time of the day or night. They are that delicious.

The recipe makes about 20 arancini, depending upon the size of each ball. We made about 100, and the recipe scaled really well. Arancini can be fried or baked.

This is a 24-hour process, so don’t start at 4pm if you plan to make them for your before-dinner snacks this evening.

Ingredients, selection and preparation

– 350g Arborio rice

– 100g butter

– 150ml dry white wine or Vermouth

– 1/2 an onion: finely chopped

– 1.5l vegetable stock or chicken stock

– 1/2 cup (125ml) grated Parmesan cheese

– 250g portobellini mushrooms: finely chopped

– 3 spring onions: finely sliced

– 100g grated Mozzarella cheese

– olive oil for baking the arancini or canola oil for frying the arancini

– 2 cups bread crumbs: sourdough or gluten free for the gluten intolerant

– 1/2 cup (125ml) cornstarch

– 2 eggs: beaten


Making the risotto

Dry-fry the chopped mushrooms in a medium saucepan, stirring regularly to cook off the moisture. Add 50g of butter, stir it in and fry for 2 or 3 minutes more. Set aside.

Make the risotto. Prepare the stock and place it in a saucepan on the stove over a low heat.

Heat 50g of butter in a large frying pan, and fry the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the Arborio rice, and fry, stirring constantly, until the rice starts to crackle.

Add the wine or Vermouth and stir constantly until the liquid has cooked off.

Add the hot stock one ladle-full at a time, stirring in a figure-of-eight, until the stock is absorbed.

Repeat this process until all of the stock is used up.

The rice should be plump and creamy, and much like pasta, al dente in texture.

This should take about 20 to 30 minutes.

Season the risotto to taste.

Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, sliced spring onions and mushrooms. Allow the mixture to cool somewhat, then stir in the Mozzarella cheese.

Cover the risotto and refrigerate overnight.

Making the arancini

Set out the coating ingredients: The beaten eggs, the cornstarch, and the breadcrumbs, each in a shallow bowl.

Scoop about 2 tbsp of risotto and roll into a ball.

Dredge the ball in the cornstarch, shaking off any excess.

Coat with egg.

For frying, roll each ball in breadcrumbs, pressing them gently into the risotto ball. Set aside on a tray and chill until you are ready to fry them.

Heat sufficient canola oil in a wok, so that the risotto balls will be half submerged when you put them in the oil.

Fry the risotto balls in small batches until golden brown. Remove from the oil and set
aside to drain on kitchen paper towel.

For baking, dampen the breadcrumbs with olive oil and mix through with your fingers until all the crumbs are oil-coated.

Roll the egg-coated risotto balls in the crumbs, pressing them gently
in. Place the risotto balls on a baking tray, and bake in mid-oven at 200ºC until golden brown.

Serve with a green salad and rich tomato relish dip.

Preparation time: 24 hours

Cooking time: 60 minutes

Yield: About 20 arancini di