Risotto is one of my favorite things to make, which is why this is one of my favorite Sicilian appetizers.
To make these Sicilian cheese-filled appetizers, you first have to make risotto, then use the risotto to make cheese-stuffed balls, then coat them with breadcrumbs and fry them.
It’s definitely a labor of love but they are absolutely worth it.
These are the perfect appetizer for the holidays or if you have left over risotto.
FOR THE RISOTTO
¼ cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
½ medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and black pepper
1 cup arborio rice
⅓ cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock, warmed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
FOR THE ARANCINI:
½ cup Mozzarella, shredded
½ cup Fontina cheese, shredded
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and black pepper
1 ½ quarts vegetable oil
1 cup tomato sauce (fresh or store-bought), warmed
Prepare the risotto:
In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium.
Add onion, garlic and Italian seasoning.
Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice until coated, about 1 minute, then add wine.
Cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed, about 1 minute.
Stir in 1/2 cup stock. Cook, stirring frequently, until stock is almost absorbed, about 4 minutes. Repeat with remaining stock, adding 1/2 cup at a time and stirring until absorbed before adding the next cup, about 15 minutes.
Once all the stock has been absorbed, the rice should be tender and creamy.
Stir in the Parmesan, the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and seasoning.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour into a large bowl and let for at least 20 minutes.
In the same bowl, mix in the mozzarella, fontina cheese.
Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 2 or 3 days.
Once the risotto is chilled, use a cookie scoop and gently roll each into a ball. Repeat with remaining risotto balls. (If you’re not planning to fry them right away, arrange them on a small baking sheet in a single layer, cover and refrigerate until cooking, up to 2 or 3 days in advance. If the risotto mixture isn’t cold, it can fall apart in the hot oil.)
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. (If you have a candy thermometer, now is a good time to use it: Heat the oil to about 350 degrees.)
Prepare the breading:
Add the flour to a shallow bowl, then add the eggs to another shallow bowl and beat the eggs to combine. In a third bowl, combine the Panko, Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
Working with one arancini, roll it first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the egg, then in the bread crumb mixture, taking care to coat it on all sides with each roll. Transfer to a clean baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining arancini.
Fry the arancini in batches, leaving at least one inch between each ball, until golden and crisp on the outside, about 5 minutes. (By the time the crust crisps, the cheese filling will melt.)
Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining arancini.
Spoon warmed tomato sauce onto small plates or into bowls and top with warm arancini, or set sauce in a bowl for dipping and arrange arancini on a serving platter.
Sprinkle arancini with finely grated Parmesan.