Have you ever made a meal whose sole existence was dependent on being re-purposed for something else? This bowl of flavor-packed risotto met that exact fate. It was a successful first attempt at risotto, but making arancini was the highly anticipated end result. When a friend announced her theme for a monthly dinner party would be Italian, arancini was the first thing that came to mind. Whenever you have an excuse to try a new dish, make sure to take advantage of it. You’d be surprised how many different meals you can make out of one recipe.
Typically arancini are fried, but these rice balls were baked. Honestly, this risotto has enough fat in it that it’s not necessary to deep fry them. Not that there’s anything against frying food here. Just not this time. The mix of breadcrumbs and panko along with a little olive oil maintains the customary crunch and golden brown color. Plus, they have so much flavor from the salty proscuitto and parmesan, sweet butternut squash and pungent sage that you won’t miss the fried taste one bit. Here’s one way to revamp one meal for an entirely different occasion!
Butternut Squash, Proscuitto and Sage Risotto – Serves 8
1/4 pound proscuitto, sliced thin
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced
1/2 bunch fresh sage leaves, sliced
1/2 large red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 1/2 – 4 cups chicken stock
2 cups white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a deep sauce pan or skillet over medium high heat. When hot add proscuitto. Cook until crisp for approximately 1-3 minutes, then remove and set on a separate plate. Add sage leaves, toasting for about 1-2 minutes. (Be sure not to leave it too long over the heat, or the sage will burn.) Remove from pan and set aside with proscuitto.
2. Add butter to the same pan and a tiny drizzle of more olive oil. Slide in onions and squash and cook until softened and browned slightly, approximately 7-9 minutes.
3. Add rice directly to the garlic, onions and squash and stir well to mix with vegetables. Continue to heat rice for 2-3 minutes or until it takes on an opaque hue. Pour wine in with the rice and continue cooking until most of the wine has been absorbed.
4. Once wine has absorbed into rice, continue adding chicken stock 1 cup at a time for the next 20-25 minutes or until done. (Rice should be slightly al dente to the bite, so taste a few grains towards the end of the cooking time.)
5. When rice is done, remove from heat and gently stir in cooked proscuitto, sage, parmesan, parsley, allspice and zest. Salt to taste.
Butternut Squash, Pancetta and Sage Arancini – Serves 4 to 6
4 cups risotto, chilled
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko crumbs
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
4 ounces fresh parmesan, cut into small pieces
1. Mix breadcrumbs, panko and parsley on a plate. Set aside.
2. Take about 1 tablespoon of risotto and press a piece of parmesan in the center. Top with a bit more risotto and shape into a compact ball. Repeat with remaining rice until you have 16 even sized balls of rice. Set ball on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and chill for at least an hour.
3. Once rice has had the chance to chill, dip each ball in the beaten eggs, then roll in crumbs to coat all sides. Repeat with all of the rice and set each one back onto the parchment paper.
4. Drizzle all of the risotto balls with a little olive oil and bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and turn each ball of rice, so the bottoms are now facing up. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil if desired, turn oven down to 400 and return to oven. Bake for another 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
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