A couple of months ago, a group of my friends decided to start monthly pot-luck dinners and this month our theme was “Fall.” I wanted to make pumpkin risotto, but I didn’t think it would be at its best after an hour and a half drive. I Googled “how to reheat risotto” and the most frequent answer was “Don’t.” But the one helpful suggestion was to make arancini—fried risotto balls.
I didn’t have to do much research for this recipe since I’ve made risotto many times before, but I did force myself to cook with a pen and pad at my side so I could make notes as I went along as to what measurements I was using and in what order I added ingredients.
Risotto is pretty easy; it just takes a little patience. On the down side, adding pumpkin was a big waste of time and pumpkin puree. I couldn’t taste it at all. Except for the slight orange tinge and the delusion that I was eating something healthy, there was no difference. I had intended to use 1.5 cups but we made pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and I only had a cup and a third left. But honestly, I don’t think the extra pumpkin would have made a difference. The only thing I think could have helped bring out the pumpkin flavor would be reducing or eliminating the parmesan cheese and that’s a deal breaker in my kitchen. The allspice helped make the recipe more autumnal, but not more pumpkiny. Let me know if you have any tricks to pump up the pumpkin in risotto.
Bring 6 cups of stock to a rolling boil and then reduce heat, keeping it simmering.
In a large sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add 1 cup of diced onions and a tablespoon (or more if you like) of garlic until your house smells fantastic and you’re ready to open a bottle of Chianti and spend the day reading and watching the snow.
Add 2 cups of Arborio rice and stir it around until everything is coated in oily goodness.
Add 1 cup of dry white wine and stir until it’s absorbed. I used an inexpensive Riesling and the smell when I put it into the pan so deeply offended my husband, that he had to open a window in the middle of a snow storm. I didn’t think it was that bad.
Add one cup of the stock and let it absorb, stirring often. Actually, a glass of wine would be perfect for this part of the process. It’s a lot of adding stock, stirring, and waiting.
Add the rest of the stock half of a cup at a time, each time waiting for it to be absorbed and stirring often. I used all six cups but you’re looking for that creamy texture while still maintaining a firmness to the rice.
Turn off the heat and stir in 1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin. Accept the fact that you won’t be able to taste a drop of it.
Add 1 cup Parmesan cheese (less if you don’t need cheese to survive) and 4 tablespoons butter.
Add salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 teaspoon allspice.
Cool risotto completely. I stuck the entire pan in the fridge, not wanting to clean an extra bowl. I then showered, pulled together my costume, looked out the window every five minutes in amazement at the ever-growing snow outside, and finally set up 3 bowls for my assembly line for the arancini: 1 cup flour, 3 eggs, a mix of 1/2 cup parmesan and 1 cup bread crumbs.
I’ve made Giada de Laurentiis’ arancini a few times but her recipe involves mixing eggs and breadcrumbs into the risotto and then rolling them in additional breadcrumbs. Instead, I decided to bread the risotto by forming them into balls, stuffing them full of cheese, (I tried to keep them small, but I wanted a decent amount of cheese in each one so they ended up being a little bigger than golf balls) and then going at it the old fashion way: coating them in flour, eggs, and then the breadcrumb/ parm blend. This gave a thicker and crispier crust with a steamy, creamy inside.
We then stuck the arancini in Tupperware, loaded them into our faithful red cooler, and drove what turned into about 2 hours because of drivers who should really just stay home when the weather is bad. We also stopped at my in-law’s house to drop off Madison. Three kids and a feisty Puggle would be waiting for us at the party and our four-pound Yorkie can be a bit of an a-hole with too much commotion.
Once we arrived, I left Rob in charge of the actual frying. I don’t know how to qualify the fact that he’s better at dropping things into hot oil and waiting for them to turn brown, but he is. Just like he’s better at vacuuming, taking the dog out at 6:00 am on a Saturday, and driving in the rain. We didn’t know how long it would take so he just kept his eye on them and waited until they were a deep brown before pulling them out. The cheese didn’t quite melt all the way on the first few so after that he kept them in a little bit longer.
I’m very happy with the finished product. I’ve been eating them for the last couple of days reheated in the microwave, which does nothing for the crust but I can get over that.
And once more, without the commentary:
2 tablspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups stock
1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup shredded Parmesan
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 teaspoon allspice
Cubes or balls of your favorite cheese
1 cup flour
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
Bring stock to a rolling boil and then reduce heat, keeping it simmering
In a large sauté or sauce pan, heat oil
Add onion and garlic until the onions start to get translucent
Add rice and stir it around until well coated
Add wine and stir until it’s absorbed
Add one cup of stock and let it absorb, stirring often
Add stock half of a cup at a time, each time waiting for it to be absorbed and stirring often, until rice is creamy but still firm
Turn off the heat and stir in pumpkin
Add cheese and butter
Add salt, pepper and allspice
Cool risotto completely
Mix together the parmesan and bread crumbs in one bowl
Form risotto into balls, stuffing with cheese
Coating each in flour, eggs, and then the breadcrumb/parm blend.
Place in deep fryer or pot of hot oil until the outside is a deep brown and cheese is melted