“When you think about Sicily, you think about arancini,” says Drago. “When we would cross from Calabria back to Sicily, we’d run to the bar upstairs on the boat, because if you were a little late, there were no arancini left.” The name for these fried risotto balls means “little oranges,” though they can come in other shapes. The cone-shaped arancini of Catania are meant to represent Mount Etna. The flour slurry they’re dipped in is called pastella, and it ensures a crispy coating.
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
- ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
- ½ medium white onion, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup flour
- 1 egg
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¾ cup small-diced provolone
Grind breadcrumbs in food processor. Set aside.
Heat stock to simmer, and crumble in saffron. Keep warm over low heat.
In wide, deep pot over medium heat, melt butter with oil. Add onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add rice, and stir 1 minute. Add stock 2 cups at a time, stirring constantly. Let rice absorb stock before adding more. Cook until rice has loose, creamy texture (you may not need all broth), about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into rimmed baking sheet. Let cool completely.
In shallow bowl, beat flour and egg with 1½ cups water until smooth. Set aside. With wet hands, scoop ¼-cup rice ball into palm. Using thumb of other hand, make large hole in the center. Add 2 teaspoons provolone or other filling and enclose with rice, maintaining round shape. Coat in flour mixture, letting excess drip off. Coat with breadcrumbs.
Fill wok or deep pot with 4 inches oil, and heat to 350˚F. Fry arancini in batches until golden brown, turning to cook evenly, about 4 minutes. Dry on paper towels, and serve hot. Serves 4–6.
Valle dell’Acate 2015 Il Frappato (Vittoria); 90 points. Bright, easy-drinking and lightly chilled Frappato is a great match for these addictive bites. This bright and savory bottle opens with enticing aromas of wild berry, fragrant blue flower, rose and a whiff of exotic spice. The silky palate offers succulent Marasca cherry, black raspberry, white pepper and a hint of clove alongside lithe tannins and fresh acidity.
The most common arancini filling in Sicily is ragu (meat and tomato sauce) with peas and cheese. Other popular fillings include minced mushrooms, prosciutto, eggplant, tomato and pistachios, always with a few bits of diced provolone dolce or mozzarella.