Saturday, May 11, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Arancini (Rice Balls) / Saffron Substitute / Testing a deep fryer

Some people really like to pull out all the stops when company is coming.
A few loaves of crusty Italian bread just won't do.
Well, it takes all kinds.

Artie's chapter Mia Cucina in The Sopranos Family Cookbook has quite a few impressive and time-consuming recipes.
His recipe for Arancini - Rice Balls  - takes a bit of effort.

But, if you have an in-law who'll give you grief over being served a chunk of bread, it might be worth the time and effort.

Notice I said might be.
Some people will always find something.

Artie also calls these Rice Balls Arangeen'.
He also uses freshly grated cheese.
Now you know.

Saffron is really hard to find.
And expensive.
About the only time stores carry it is before Easter for folks who make Paska.
They often have to request it a few weeks in advance.
An easier to find (and cheaper) spice you can use instead of saffron is turmeric.
I've read that instead of saffron, some folks use safflower annatto.
No, I don't know where you'd find that.

Don't have a deep-frying thermometer?
To test if the oil has reached 375º drop a bit of egg white into the oil.
It should sizzle.

Also... keep your hands wet when assembling the balls.
The water will keep the rice from sticking.
Cooked rice is worse than crazy glue.


Makes 18

For the Filling

Place in a medium skillet
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Turn on the heat to medium and cook 5 minutes.
8 ounces ground beef
Cook, stirring to break up the meat, about 10 minutes.
Stir in
1 1/2 Cups canned Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
salt and pepper
Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced.
1/2 Cup frozen peas
Cook 5 minutes more.
Let cool.

For the Rice

In a dutch oven place
5 Cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
Bring to a boil and stir in
2 Cups medium-grain rice (such as Arborio)
2 Tablespoons butter
salt to taste
Cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 18 minutes.
Remove the rice from the heat and stir in
1/2 Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 Cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Let cool and stir in
4 large egg yolks

To Assemble

Place a cake rack over a large cookie sheet.

On one sheet of wax paper place
2 Cups plain bread crumbs

On another sheet of wax paper place
2 Cups flour

Dice into 18 cubes
4 ounces sharp provolone

In a shallow bowl, beat until foamy
5 large egg whites

With wet hands, scoop up 1/3 Cup of the rice mixture.
Place it in the palm of your other hand.
Poke a shallow hole in the centre of the rice.
Place a Tablespoonful of the filling in the hole.
Top it with a provolone cube.
Cup your hand to mold the rice over the filling.
If there's a bare spot, add more rice.
Very gently squeeze the rice to make a firm ball.

Carefully roll the rice ball in the flour, then in the egg whites.
Make sure the ball is coated with egg white.
Carefully roll the rice ball in the bread crumbs.
Make sure the ball is coated with crumbs.
Place the rice ball on the cake rack to dry.

Repeat until you have 18 balls.
Place the rack of balls in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to dry.

In a deep heavy saucepan place
3 inches vegetable oil
Heat oil to 375º on a deep-frying thermometer.
With a slotted spoon lower a few rice balls into the hot oil.
Do not crowd the pan.
Cook until balls are crisp all over, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Place the rice balls on paper towels to drain.
Keep the cooked balls warm in a low oven while you fry the remainder.
Serve hot or warm.

Would I make Arancini?
You'll notice I did not say again.
You'll also notice I didn't make any jokes about balls.
Well, you should have noticed.

If I'm having company, I'll make Ma's Risotto.
I'd even make Carmela's Risotto with Truffles and Champagne.
Using a large brown mushroom, of course.
But I wouldn't touch Artie's balls.

One recipe down.  Twelve more to go.


  1. Hmmm, remove the rice from the cheese??

  2. Hi, debster,
    Thanks for noting the typo.
    It is now 'Remove the rice from the heat'.


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