When Giada de Laurentiis made arancini on one of her TV shows, she rolled the rice balls in flour, dipped them in beaten eggs then rolled them in fine bread crumbs before frying. My arancini-style cheese-stuffed rice balls were executed a little differently.
Chopped chorizo and beaten eggs were mixed into the rice. The cheese-stuffed rice balls were rolled directly in panko (Japanese bread crumbs) then fried.
Why omit rolling them in flour and coating them with beaten eggs? Because the rice balls were sticky enough to allow the bread crumbs to adhere to them quite well.
After frying, the panko coating created a crisp crust while the cheese at the center of each rice ball turned soft and gooey. Quite delightful especially with the added flavor from the salty and spicy chorizo.
Making arancini starts with rice—arborio is traditional but I used Japanese rice which has the same sticky quality. I placed the rice in a mixing bowl, added the chopped chorizo, eggs and lots of grated Parmesan.
About the chorizo… I used dried—the kind that you can eat right away. You may use fresh but you’ll have to discard the casing and fry the sausage meat in its own fat before adding it to the rice. These rice balls cook in a short time—too short to cook any raw meat in them.
After mixing, I took a tablespoonful of the rice mixture. and stuffed a cube of cheese at the center. What kind of cheese? Mozzarella is traditional but we had very little left. Instead of having some of the rice balls stuffed with mozzarella and the others with some other kind of cheese, I decided to go with the cheese that we had enough of to stuff fifteen or so balls. I used Swiss cheese.
With the cheese cube embedded in the rice mixture, I made a rice ball. And I repeated the procedure until I had used up all the rice mixture.
A tip to make uniformly-sized rice balls: Use a small ice cream scoop. I would have but I couldn’t locate the darn thing. After checking all the drawers in the kitchen, I gave up and just used a measuring spoon.
I placed the cheese-stuffed rice balls in a covered container and chilled them for 30 minutes. Chilling makes the rice balls firmer and lessens the chances of breaking apart during frying.
The chilled rice balls were then rolled in panko before going into a pan of hot oil.
I fried the arancini-style cheese-stuffed rice balls in batches to make sure that the pan was not overcrowded.
Four to five minutes of frying and I had golden rice balls with crispy coating.
And, inside… Well, that’s what happens when you bite into the fried rice ball. The softened cheese turns soft and stringy. Crispy outside, cheesy-creamy inside and with all the wonderful flavors of chorizo, what’s not to love?
Arancini-style Cheese-stuffed Rice Balls
- 2 cups day-old rice (use arborio, Japanese or other medium-grain rice)
- 100 grams Spanish chorizo (or use salami)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 whole eggs
- salt optional, only if the chorizo is not too salty
- pepper optional, only if the chorizo is not too spicy
- 100 to 150 grams cheese (any variety that melts well), cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 to 4 cups cooking oil for frying
- 1 cup panko
- tomato sauce for dipping
In a mixing bowl, mix the rice, chopped chorizo, Parmesan, eggs and, optionally, salt and pepper.
Scoop some of the rice mixture using a measuring spoon or small ice cream scoop. Place a cheese cube at the center. Gather to form a ball making sure that no part of the cheese is exposed. Repeat until all the rice mixture has been used.
Place the rice balls in container in a single layer. Cover the container and chill the rice balls for at least 30 minutes.
Start heating the oil in a wok or frying pan.
Take the rice balls out of the fridge and roll each one in panko.
When the oil has reached a temperature of 350F, fry the rice balls in batches. Turn then around occasionally for even frying. When the crust is a golden brown, scoop out and move to a plate lined with paper towels.
Serve the arancini-style cheese-stuffed rice balls with tomato sauce on the side for dipping.