These little hot rice pyramids (or other shapes) are sold as snacks in bakeries around Sicily. I travelled near Etna and there they were made in the shape of its famous volcano. Fillings vary from tomato sauce to mozzarella to, in this case, ragú with peas and Fontina cheese. In fact this is a perfect way to use up a little leftover ragu but we have put a recipe below.
‘The worse the rice, the better the arancini’ goes the saying in Sicily. Arborio rice is usually used for this dish, but any rice that sticks to itself when well cooked will work. They are sold as a snack but are actually really filling so think small, roughly the size of a walnut for a nibble and save the pyramids filled with ragu for a meal. They are perfect for filling up hungry teenagers and will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Warm briefly in a microwave if you prefer them hot. As with all rice dishes don’t let rice sit at room temperature for more than an hour or it can lead to food poisoning, keep it in the fridge.
FOR THE VOLCANOES
1.5 litre vegetable stock
500g risotto rice (Arborio)
4 packets of saffron (5g in total)
1 teaspoon salt
sunflower oil for frying
100g fine breadcrumbs
FOR THE FILLING
30g peas, cooked
250g ragù (see recipe below)
80g Fontina cheese
FOR THE BATTER
200g plain flour or 00 flour
500ml cold water
Put the stock into a large saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the rice, saffron and salt. Cook without stirring (although you can shake the pan from time to time) for around 20–25 minutes, until cooked through. If necessary, add a little more stock or hot water. When the water has evaporated and the rice is cooked through, add the butter and stir in, until melted. Remove from the heat, put a lid on the pan and leave for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Put the flour into a bowl and then add the water little by little until it is all used up. The batter will be very runny, but smooth and without any lumps of flour; whisk it if necessary.
To make the filling, stir the peas into the ragù. Cut the cheese into small pieces and divide into 8 equal portions. Heat the sunflower oil in a high-sided pan or deep fat fryer to 175?C.
Spoon the rice onto a flat work surface and work it through with your hands for around 5 minutes to break down the grains. Dip your hands into tepid water so that the rice does not stick to you.
Weigh out around 120g of rice and flatten it a little into the palm of your hand.
Put around 30g of the ragu and 10g of the cheese into the hollow in the rice.
Close the rice around the filling, squeezing and pushing the rice together with the point facing down towards you. Flatten the end away from you.
Dip the volcano into the batter and, as you bring it out, let the batter drain off.
Now roll the volcano in the breadcrumbs. Pick up more breadcrumbs and scatter them over the surface, pressing them in. Repeat to make 8 arancini. Drop a small piece of bread into the hot oil; if it turns brown and sizzles within a couple of minutes, the oil is ready for frying. Fry the arancini in batches in the hot oil until golden brown, around 7–10 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm.
Ragù alla Bolognese
Serves 8 as a main, 10 as a starter
1 quantity of soffritto (see recipe below), omitting the garlic and rosemary
600g beef mince
200g pancetta or unsmoked streaky bacon or lardo, minced in a food processor or cut finely by hand
200g chicken livers, chopped finely
200ml red wine
800g Italian tinned plum tomatoes
200ml water to wash out the tins
1 teaspoon salt
Make the soffritto, frying the vegetables in hot oil for 15–20 minutes or until softened. Add the mince, pancetta and chicken livers and fry for 10–15 minutes over a medium heat, stirring frequently until the meat is browned and the water has been released and evaporated. The mixture should sizzle as it is stirred. Add the wine and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes until the wine has separated from the oil. At this point add the tomatoes, rinsing out the cans with the stock, and add this too. Turn down to a simmer and leave to cook for 1 hour. Add the milk and stir through, leave to cook for a further 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Basic Soffritto recipe
150g carrot (about 2-3)
150g celery (2-3 sticks)
150g onions (red or white)
150ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves (optional)
Salt and pepper
2 large sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme
2 bay leaves
Finely chop the ingredients by hand or in a food processor. It is best to cut them separately if you are using a machine as the carrots need longer than the celery and onion.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-hot heat. Add the garlic, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Fry for 1 minute before adding the remaining ingredients. Keep frying, stirring frequently, for 15–20 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. The colours will have changed from bright and sharp to soft and golden. Use straight away or freeze