These Sicilian arancini are great again for lunches and can be easily reheated in the oven or microwave, smaller sizes can be made for finger food or canapés, and they are well suited for picnics or meals on the go. The famous arancini have travelled the world and are renowned as the quintessential buttery crispy creamy, savoury rice snack food. They have been stuffed with all sorts of flavourings including meats, cheeses, vegetables, and even transformed into delightful desserts. This is one of the original recipes and one that my cousin felt that I must include. I love this recipe because it lets your imagination run wild.
For the filling, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and sage and sauté for 6-8 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but have not taken on any colour.
Add the mince and use the back of a wooden spoon to break it up so that it starts to cook evenly. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mince is slightly browned, then add the tomato sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reduce the temperature to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture has the consistency of a thick ragu, not a sauce.
Add the peas to the filling, then stir and set aside to cool. Transfer the filling to a bowl, cover with plastic film and set aside in the fridge to cool completely.
Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the stock and bay leaves and whisk in the salt and saffron. Bring to the boil and, while stirring, add the rice. Reduce the heat to low- medium and simmer, continuing to stir the rice until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente. This will take about 20–30 minutes.
Turn off the heat and then remove the bay leaves and discard. Beat in the eggs and pecorino, then spread over a tray and stand until cool, then refrigerate until cold.
To assemble the arancini, wet your hands a little with water to prevent the rice from sticking, then take a small tennis ball-sized amount of rice (about 65g) and shape into balls about 5cm in diameter. Cup your hand around the rice, then use your other thumb to make a cavity in the ball. Place a tablespoon of the filling in the centre of the rice and remould the ball around it. Make sure there are no holes or the filling will leak out during cooking. Place on a baking paper-lined tray and repeat with the remaining rice and filling; you should have approximately 20 arancini. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Fill a deep fryer or saucepan one-third full with oil and heat over medium heat to 160°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 20 seconds).
For the coating, place the flour in a shallow bowl and season, then place the eggs and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. Roll the balls lightly first in flour, then dip in the egg, then coat in the crumbs.
Working in batches, deep-fry the arancini for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel, then place on an oven tray and keep warm while cooking the remainder.