Arancini is the name of a traditional Sicilian street food made with Arborio rice, filled and then fried. The filling varies and may include ingredients like prosciutto, Fontina cheese, peas, mushrooms or a combination of some or all. Arancini can be eaten plain or accompanied by a fresh marinara sauce. Arancini means “little oranges” in Italian, due to their shape (round) and golden color. Once again, we have our Sicilian friend Tony to thank for introducing us to arancini.
Thought to have originated in Italy in the 10th century, arancini can be considered frugality at its best. Why? Because they makes use of leftover ingredients. There is no one true recipe for arancini, since the filling choice is left either to the whims of the cook or the surplus ingredients on hand. The only ingredient that does remain constant is the Arborio rice, a short grain starchy rice named after the town where it is produced. The creamy consistency of Arborio allows it to bind together well around the filling ingredients. Arancini are not too difficult or time consuming to make and you can impart your own flair onto them.
Like all Italian foods, arancini are a marvelous contrast of flavors, colors and textures. The intense yellow of the Arborio is due to the use of saffron that flavors the liquid in which the rice is prepared. This intense yellow color is contrasted with the interior fillings which usually have different colors. The contrast in textures is due to the softness and creaminess of the Arborio rice coupled with the fried crunchy exterior along with the solid bits of filling such as mushrooms, prosciutto, tomatoes, peas, etc… Furthermore, there is also a contrast of flavors: the saltiness of the filling ingredients coupled with the mild sweetness of the saffron-flavored rice. Indeed, arancini are a culinary symphony!