Years ago, while strolling the streets of Rome, Italy my husband and I stumbled on this little whole-in-the-wall restaurant late into the evening. Rome is quite similar to New York City in that it never seems to sleep. We were hungry from sightseeing all day and wanted to grab a late night snack before retreating to our room. That evening was the first time I had ever had Arancini (Italian Fried Rice Balls) and I have been a fan ever since. According to Wikipedia, “the name Arancini derives from the food’s shape and color, which is reminiscent of an orange (the Italian word for orange is arancia, and arancina means “little orange”).”
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and I wanted a meatless option to offer to the family. Instead of the traditional ground beef and peas stuffing that typically fills arancini I went with a vegetarian-style broccoli parmesan arancini. My broccoli parmesan arancini are a great finger food or can even serve as a meal in itself when paired with a side salad or warm bowl of soup.
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups of medium-grain rice such as Arborio
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup steamed broccoli (still firm, not mushy)
- 2 cups italian style bread crumbs
- Flour for dredging
- Vegetable Oil for deep-frying
- To make the rice, bring the broth, olive oil and a pinch of salt to a boil in a large pot. Stir in the rice. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until rice is tender. About 20 minutes.
- Remove the rice from the heat and pour into a large bowl. Stir in the cheese, broccoli and 1/4 cup of flour. Add another pinch of salt to the mixture and combine.
- To assemble, beat the eggs in a bowl. Spread the bread crumbs on one sheet of wax paper and the flour on another.
- Dip your hands in cool water and scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of the rice mixture into your hand and roll into a ball. Very gently squeeze the ball to compact. Roll the rice ball in flour, then in the egg to completely coat. Roll the ball in the bread crumbs and completely coat. Finish making the rice balls until the mixture is finished (you may need to wash your hands even now and then and restart with freshly cleaned and wet hands).
- Pour about 3 inches of oil into a deep pot or frying pan. When oil is hot lower the rice balls one at a time into the hot oil; do not crowd the pan. Cook until golden brown and crisp all over (about 3-4 minutes). Transfer rice balls to paper towel lined plate to drain.
The rice, parmesan cheese and broccoli perfectly complement one another and offer a filling and satisfying bite. Arancini are known as classic comfort food in Italy and I can understand why. There’s something about the crispy bread crumb coating and the warm, soft rice that immediately provides a comforting feeling.
I like to serve my the broccoli parmesan arancini warm, with a spicy tomato sauce for dipping. However, I have also found these little rice balls to be quite tasty cold, right out the refrigerator (in the cover of night with only the glow from the refrigerator lighting the kitchen).
If you are looking for a meatless version of arancini and have a love for broccoli when paired with cheese, these broccoli parmesan arancini are the perfect choice for you.
This article was written by food and beer blogger Linda Arceo for Giggles, Gobbles and Gulps.