Arancini is an iconic Italian dish of deep-fried risotto balls, often filled with mozzarella cheese, a meat ragu, or both. The variations are endless but the real star of the show is the risotto itself, not the filling. It's rich and creamy with just the right texture and umami flavor.
For this recipe I've focused on arguably the most popular wild mushroom in America: the morel. Paired with ramps, another fantastic wild ingredient, it's the perfect combination of spring flavor to bite into and ring in the new season. I like to feature a hot and cold combo for dipping with a spicy tomato sauce spiked with Calabrian chili paste and a buttermilk ramp ranch.
If done correctly you can translate a stellar plate of risotto into a new fried favorite. And just like the risotto itself, think of arancini as a blank canvas. Whether it's spring morels, summer chanterelles, or a beautiful tomato studded venison ragu, remember to experiment and have fun because you're the artist doing the painting.
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1 qt. stock
- 1½ cups dry white wine
- 1-2 cups morel mushrooms, diced or 1 cup reconstituted dry morels, diced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
- 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
- ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 1 cup parmesan
- 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. coarse salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 6 tbsp. ramp butter (or regular butter)
- Vegetable oil
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs, beaten with a splash of water
Spicy tomato sauce (makes 1 qt.)
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced
- 4-5 large cloves of garlic, crushed
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp. Calabrian chili paste
- 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp. dry oregano
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp coarse salt
Wild leek buttermilk ranch (makes 1 pt.)
- 1¼ cups low fat buttermilk
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. ramp powder
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire
- 1 tsp. dry dill or 1 tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. coarse salt
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. ground mustard
- ½ tsp. black pepper
Also works with
- Make the spicy tomato sauce. In a medium-sized pot on high heat, add the olive oil, onion, and smashed garlic cloves. Cook until the edges of the onion and garlic begin to brown. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the dry oregano and tomato paste. Add the crushed tomato, Calabrian chili pepper paste, sugar, and salt. Simmer lightly for 1 to 2 hours. Remove, let cool, and puree in a blender until smooth.
- Make the ranch. Whisk together all ranch ingredients in a non-metal pan and set in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld properly. You can add the buttermilk and ramp powder to a small pan on low heat for a bolder, greener version. Warm the buttermilk, making sure not to bring it to a simmer—only a few minutes. Let the buttermilk cool in the refrigerator and mix in the rest of the ranch ingredients.
- Make the risotto. While the tomato sauce is cooking, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic to a Dutch oven or similar style pot at medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and thyme and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice, season with salt and pepper, and stir until every piece of rice is coated in oil. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add enough wine to barely cover the rice. Simmer, occasionally stirring, until the wine is nearly cooked out and the rice has almost absorbed the liquid. Now, add two cups of stock (this could be game or chicken stock, reconstituted mushroom liquid, or a combo) and repeat as with the wine. Add the remaining two cups of stock, one at a time, repeating the same process. After the final cup, when the rice is thick and creamy, stir in the parmesan, parsley, and four tablespoons of butter. Immediately pour the risotto onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Cover with another piece of parchment and cool the risotto in the refrigerator for later.
- Make the arancini. Once the risotto has cooled in the refrigerator for an hour or so, chop the mozzarella and dice the remaining ramp butter. Take a ¼ to ⅓ cup of the risotto and flatten it into the palm of your hand to about ½ inch thick. Add some mozzarella and a small amount of butter. Form the risotto as evenly as you can into a ball around the filling. Now roll the arancini in your hand until round and smooth. Repeat with the remaining risotto.
- Fry the arancini. Prep three bowls for frying with seasoned flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs. I like to use a combination of panko and toasted sourdough bread that I buzz to a fine consistency for the crumbs. One at a time, or more if you're feeling bold, coat each ball in flour, then egg wash, and finish with the breadcrumbs. Repeat with the remaining risotto balls and place them on a lined baking sheet or tray.
- Bring about three inches of oil to 350ºF. Gently add the arancini to the oil. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes and or until crispy brown on the outside. Fry the arancini in 2 or 3 batches to ensure there is enough space for them to cook evenly and maintain your oil temperature. Serve with the sauces and enjoy.