Arancini are crispy, fried risotto balls and they’re great for entertaining. This recipe is perfect for the holidays, with roasted butternut squash and local Boccalone pancetta. You can make the rice balls a day in advance and have them chilling in the fridge. When guests come over have the hot oil ready and fry them right before serving. Just make sure to make a lot…people love them.
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1½ hours
Makes about 25
1 1½ to 2 lb butternut squash, peeled, cored and diced into ½-inch cubes
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz pancetta
¾ cup sweet onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
¾ cup Aborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten (save the whites for below)
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon warm water
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fine bread crumbs
Canola oil for frying
Tools: Small ice cream scooper (the size of 1 tablespoon)
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Spread 3 cups of the diced squash out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, honey and salt. Toss to coat. Reserve remaining squash for another use. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until soft and caramelized at the edges. Cool.
Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a small saucepan, covered.
Put the pancetta in the freezer for about 15 minutes, then finely dice into ¼-inch cubes – freezing it first will make dicing easier. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until golden and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened, 4 to 6 minutes, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and sage and cook for another minute. Add the Aborio rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is coated and translucent at the edges – 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium, add the white wine and stir rice until the wine has been absorbed. Add the warm broth, ½ cup at a time and cook until the broth has been fully absorbed by the rice, stirring consistently. The rice should be creamy, but al dente. Turn off the heat and stir in the pancetta, squash and Pecorino. Transfer the rice to a large shallow bowl and cool, stirring often, until the risotto is room temperature. Then, mix in the egg yolks.
Whisk the egg whites, water and salt together in a shallow bowl. Put the flour in second shallow bowl and the breadcrumbs in a third bowl.
Scoop the risotto into little balls with a 1-tablespoon ice cream scooper. Dredge each rice ball in the flour – shaking off any excess, then the egg wash and then the breadcrumbs. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover the arancini lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.
Fill a large, heavy pot 1/3 full with canola oil and heat to 375° F with a deep-frying thermometer. The oil should be at least 2” deep. Place a wire cooking rack over a baking sheet next to the oil.
Fry the arancini in batches until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer them to the wire rack to cool slightly before serving.