By Executive Chef & Director of Culinary Enrichment Kathryn Kelly

Several years ago, I was strolling the beautiful streets of Taormina and I happened to stop for a coffee and breakfast snack when I discovered these beautiful caramel-colored rice balls. I decided to sample one, and discovered from the shop owner that the rice balls, arancini, are a traditional way Italians use leftover rice and risotto.

Arancini happen to be uniquely Sicilian and while you’ll find them all over Italy, they are never quite as delicious as they are on the Island of the Godfather. I hope you enjoy this authentic taste of Sicily!

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Arancini Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup minced onion
5 stamens saffron
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock, warm
1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Ground white pepper
4 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup rice flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Olive oil, for frying

Makes 6 balls

For the Rice

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, melt the butter and sweat the onions with the saffron until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the rice to parch and awaken the starches. Decrease the heat to medium and begin adding the warm stock ¼ cup at a time. Allow the rice to absorb the stock before adding more. Properly executed, Arborio rice will cook to al dente in 17 minutes. When rice is cooked, remove from the heat and fold in the cheese. Season with pepper.

For the Arancini

Line a large sheet tray with plastic wrap and spread the rice mixture evenly in a thin layer. Place in the refrigerator uncovered, to set for 2 hours. Remove and, with cold hands, scoop ¼ cup of the rice into the palm of your hand. With your thumb, press a well in the middle of the rice. Nestle the cubes of cheese in the well and close the rice to cover, forming a ball. Allow the finished arancini to set and come to room temperature, about an hour.

Note: You can adjust the amount of rice to make the arancini larger, using up to ½ cup of rice.

Set up a breading station with three shallow bowls, one for each: flour, eggs and bread crumbs. Set up a frying station with a large tall-sided saucepan ¾ full of olive oil, a slotted spoon and a tray lined with paper towels.

Bring the oil to 375°F/191°C and, in small batches, fry the arancini until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn as needed. Transfer to the paper towel-lined tray to drain. Serve hot and crispy.

Buon appetito!