Italian Rice Balls with Red Pepper Oil
Also known as arancini, these rice balls are the perfect fare for a large gathering. You can also serve them as a carbohydrate boost to a fresh green salad. You’ll want to use fresh-cooked, warm rice, which helps the rice balls stick together. Serves 8
- 2 cups uncooked short-grain rice (short-grain brown rice works well)
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian herbs (basil, tarragon, thyme, parsley)
- zest from half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon water, lightly beaten
- 1 cup gluten-free panko or bread crumbs
- ½ cup olive oil
- freshly grated Parmesan
- red pepper oil
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- coarse salt to taste
Prepare the rice in a rice cooker or on the stovetop, following the instructions on the package.
TO MAKE THE RED PEPPER OIL
While the rice is cooking, blanch the bell pepper in salted boiling water for no more than 1 minute. The skin will be wrinkled. Run the pepper under cold water, then peel off the skin and remove the stem and seeds. Place the pepper in a blender with the olive oil and purée. Season to taste with coarse salt and set aside.
TO MAKE THE RICE BALLS
Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Once the cooked rice is cool enough to handle, transfer it into a large bowl and add the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, herbs, lemon zest, and salt. Mix together with a wooden spoon. It will be sticky. Shape into large, firm balls, about 2 inches in diameter (the size of a golf ball). Makes about 32 rice balls. Brush egg and water mixture onto each rice ball, then roll in the bread crumbs.
In large sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the rice balls in batches. Don’t crowd the pan. Turn frequently until golden brown on all sides. Each batch will take about 8–10 minutes to cook. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you finish making the remaining rice balls. Add more olive oil if needed.
Pile the rice balls on a serving platter and top with freshly grated Parmesan. Serve with red pepper oil, pesto (see p. 80 for Lemon Pesto), or your favorite marinara.
CHANGE IT UP
Next time around, try making basil oil: Blanch 2 ounces fresh basil, squeeze out any excess moisture, then place it in a blender with ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, juice from half a lemon, and coarse salt to taste.