Arancini – Salvo Montalbano’s favourite
Arancini are deep-fried rice balls, normally stuffed with a ragu including a few peas as well as mozzarella and some basil. They are usually served with a tomato sauce. Traditionally arancini are a convenience devised to use leftover risotto. But now they’re appearing on restaurant menus and caterer’s canapé trays – even Montalbano’s housekeeper, Adelina made trays and trays of arancini from scratch. It would appear that this make-do leftover has been promoted to gourmet speciality.
Adelina’s arancini have a rounded conical shape whereas others are spherical. The arancini is thought to have originated in Sicily and the conical shape is typical of those from eastern Sicily – the area where the fictional Adelina resides…
The size of an arancini varies enormously. Arancini means ‘little orange’ in Italian, so this suggest a size anywhere between a kumquat and a navel. The size matters and can affect the eating experience: when they are small they can be eaten as a light snack, when they are large they make a full meal. The relationship of circumference to volume and the practical transference of heat all come into play. A large arancini will contain a larger volume of ragu at its centre than a smaller arancini. This relationship is key to the successful balance of amount of rice to ragu. Finally, a large arancini – or even moderately sized – will struggle to transfer heat to its core before the outer crust begins to burn.
My conclusions to all these considerations is to make your arancini the size of an apricot or satsuma, don’t fill with too much of anything and serve with a separate tomato sauce. Fry on a low heat for as long as possible and then finish in the oven on a low setting to ensure the rice and core are piping hot. Buon appetito!