Crisp and crunchy little stuffed rice balls are a popular appetizer in Italy – and are hard to resist once you had a taste.
Spring is here and that means it’s time to celebrate aperitivo time al-fresco with a lovely drink and a delectable snack.
And when looking for a great appetizer, you can’t go wrong to look at Italy.
From cured meats to cheeses, vegetables, the famous crostini, bruschetta, and even small pieces of pizza or little portions of pasta, there’s an almost unlimited number of delicious little snacks to enjoy along with a nice cocktail or a glass of bubbles.
So where does one start with all that choice?
One of my all-time favourites are arancini, little stuffed rice balls.
The origin of this delightful appetizer is a bit mysterious but various sources point to 10th century Sicily. Considering this was the time when the Moorish ruled the island, and that you can find similar foods in the Middle Eastern, it’s a reasonable assumption.
Arancini in Italian means little oranges, and that’s how these little balls do come across. Like ripe little oranges.
Traditionally, arancini are made with fillings of ragù, tomato sauce (sugo), cheese or the classic ham and mozzarella combo.
But of course, other variations also exist and the combination with savoury risotto stuffed with tender, sweet crab meat is absolutely unbeatable. I usually serve them with a homemade mango mayonnaise, which adds another exciting flavour combination.
By the way, you can make arancini from scratch, but I recommend the next time you prepare a risotto to simply make a more generous serving and keep the leftovers to make arancini. You can easily keep the risotto in the fridge for a day or two.
These little rice balls stuffed with white crab meat are absolutely delicious when served as appetizer or canapé with a few glasses of chilled sparkling wine.
Recipe: Crab Arancini with Homemade Mango Mayonnaise
Serves 10-12 arancini
For the arancini
3 tablespoons olive oil
200 g risotto (arborio or carnaroli)
½ onion, finely chopped
150 ml dry white wine
800 ml vegetable broth
50 g freshly grated parmesan
200 g white crab meat
flavourless oil for frying (about 1 litre)
2 eggs, beaten
For the mayonnaise
80 ml pureed mango
20 ml lime juice
1 egg yolk
½ teaspoon salt
250 g flavourless oil
Place mango puree, lime zest, lime juice, egg yolk and salt in a food processor or blender. Mix on high speed for a few seconds. Continue to mix on low speed, slowly adding the oil in a thin, steady stream. Continue to mix until the mayonnaise will emulsify, in about one minute.
Set aside until needed.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Fry the onion until translucent. Add risotto and cook for about two minutes until translucent, while stirring constantly. Add wine and continue to cook until almost completely evaporated, stirring occasionally.
Start to add vegetable broth in small quantities, stir to combine and cook until the broth is fully absorbed. Continue to add more broth and cook until the rice is soft, for about 25-30 minutes.
Add parmesan and crab meat and continue to cook for another minute.
Set aside to let cool for about 15-20 minutes.
Place flour, beaten eggs and the breadcrumb-panko mix into three separate shallow bowls.
Form little rice balls. Dip first into the flour, then the eggs and finally the breadcrumb-panko mix. Ensure each rice ball is completely coated.
In a deep saucepan, heat the oil over high heat. Test if the oil is ready with a little cube of bread; it should brown in about 30 seconds.
Fry the rice ball in batches, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper, then keep warm while frying the remaining rice balls.
Serve with some rocket, lemon wedges and the mayonnaise.