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Inghams Italy Cookbook - Baked Marinara-stuffed Arancini (Risotto Balls)

Tue Dec 2014

Baked Marinara-stuffed Arancini (risotto balls)

Have you got any leftover risotto chilling in the fridge or some spare marinara sauce lurking in the deep freezer or the back of your cupboard? Give them – and your family – the five-star treatment with these fun-to-make baked risotto balls. Crunchy on the outside with a soft, melting inside, all these Italian arancini need is a crispy salad and you are good to go. Don’t delay, stuff and roll today!

Makes 10-12 balls (2-3 balls per serving)

Ingredients:

  • Leftover risotto – about 750g (a simple recipe below)
  • Leftover or good quality bought marinara sauce – about 250g (my recipe below), plus extra for serving
  • Mozzarella ball – about ¼ – chopped into small cubes (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 2 eggs, beaten (using separately, so don’t mix them)
  • Zest of ½ small lemon
  • 250g panko breadcrumbs or dry-toasted breadcrumbs (gluten-free is fine)
  • Olive oil, for greasing the tray and mixing into the breadcrumbs

Instructions:

First of all, if you don’t have leftover risotto, use the cheat’s risotto recipe at the end of the arancini recipe. It will get your risotto the right texture for the arancini without having to faff with an overnight hardening up in the fridge. This is a little drier than normal risotto, but if you are using leftover risotto, its overnight spell in the cold will render it the right consistency, unless you made it very wet. In any case, mixing in an egg helps bring it together.

Take your cooled risotto and, with your hands, mix it with one egg and the lemon zest, squashing it a little, and pop it in the fridge for an hour. This sounds a bit difficult, but it will keep you from cursing my name while you make this up. Half an hour might just be okay. Don’t quote me though.

Get a bowl/plate each for the sauce, the last egg, mozzarella cubes and breadcrumbs. Also, to keep your hands from sticking to the rice, have a little fingerbowl on standby as well. Take a palmful of risotto in one hand, roll it and, with the other hand, flatten it a little, making a well for the filling. Put a tablespoon of sauce into the indent, push in a cube of cheese and top with a basil leaf. With a wet spoon, take a smaller (about half) amount of rice and smooth it on the top of the filled part.

Once fully covered, roll it in a ball, dip in the egg and roll in the crumbs. I then shaped it into a bit of an awkward pyramid, but you can keep it as a ball. Carry on until you finish the rice, popping each ball/awkward pyramid on a baking tray that you have slicked with one teaspoon of oil per tray (I used two trays), or sprayed with oil spray.

I carefully drizzled a tiny amount of oil on each ball. I’m not sure how much was on each, but probably less than a quarter of a teaspoon – not much. You might want to go super skinny and just spray them with an oil spray, or you might want to mix your crumbs with a tablespoon or so of olive oil before coating the balls. It’s your choice really. Whatever you do, it will be a heck of a lot healthier than frying. I might try the oiling crumbs method next time, but we as a family were very pleased with the result from the drizzling.

Pop the arancini in an oven heated to 200C/400F and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with warmed marinara sauce and a crisp salad. You can freeze any leftover, uncooked balls and heat from frozen – adding about seven minutes to the cooking time. This can also be made as 20 appetiser-sized balls, but these are a bit fiddly to fill.

Risotto Balls (1)

A Cheat’s Risotto for Arancini

Ingredients:

  • 225g (1 cup) risotto rice – arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano – all are fine
  • 750 ml (about 3 cups) hot, well-flavoured vegetable stock (I use Organic Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon stock powder)
  • 3 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped – white and green bits

Instructions:

Pour the stock over the rice and chopped spring onion and bring to the boil. Give it a stir, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes. Have a peep and give another stir at 10 minutes. If at 15 minutes it still seems sloppy, give it another five minutes, then remove from the heat and pour into a shallow container to cool to room temperature. From here you add in a beaten egg and lemon zest and carry on with the arancini recipe, as above.

A Simple Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tbsp dried
  • 1 medium carrot or ½ red pepper and 1 stalk celery – minced
  • 1 kg of fresh plum tomatoes, chopped OR two 454g tins of quality chopped tomatoes (Cirio are my favourite)
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar or honey to taste (if tomatoes are a bit bitter). I often add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar too

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed pan (not aluminium). Add the onion and sauté gently until onion is soft, for around five minutes. Then, add the garlic, thyme, carrot or pepper, and celery; continue cooking for 15 minutes until the vegetables are quite soft. Add the tomatoes with their juice and bring to the boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until as thick as porridge; season with salt, and maybe a pinch of sugar. Cool slightly and whizz with a hand blender. You can keep this sauce in the fridge for one week or freeze in an appropriate container for up to three months.

About Kellie:

I'm Kellie Anderson, an ex-pat American cancer health educator with a taste for global food - and big flavours - made with fresh, seasonal British ingredients. My blog, Food To Glow, is mainly 'plant-based', but you will find the occasional decadent treat - usually with a healthy tweak. Although I'm an omnivore, I speak fluent vegan: most of my non-vegan recipes will have vegan alternatives, as well as gluten-free and soft food diet options where appropriate. All recipes are tested out on family, friends and/or my cancer nutrition classes at the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. I specialise in innovative recipes for the adventurous, health-minded home cook.

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