Arancini have become a mainstay of my party food repertoire, and for good reason. They are magical. They are so festive that one can imagine eating them at an ancient Roman feast, a backyard picnic, or a fancy wedding in the Hamptons. These traditional Sicilian fried balls of rice are also hand-held, bite-sized, and can be made in advance. Leave it to the Sicilians to perfect party food over 1000 years ago.
I made this sophisticated version of arancini from Martha Stewart for a baby shower. I love the double blast of bright orange color from the butternut squash and the golden panko crust. The center has a tangy burst of goat cheese, and a drizzle of warm honey takes them over the top.
To make them in advance, prepare the recipe below and let cool completely on parchment-lined sheets. Layer them between parchment in large freezer-bags and freeze for up to 1 month. To defrost, transfer them to the fridge one day before your party. On the day of the event, reheat them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning once.
Butternut Squash Arancini with Sage
makes about 20
2 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced butternut squash
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, whisked
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 ounces goat cheese
Canola oil for frying
1/3 cup honey, warmed
1. Heat chicken stock over medium-low heat until warm; cover and keep warm over low heat.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add squash and cook, stirring often, until lightly golden and tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove squash from pan. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan; add onion and garlic, and saute over medium heat until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Add rice to pan; stir to coat with oil. Add 1/2 cup warm stock; cook rice, stirring constantly, until stock is absorbed. Repeat until all stock has been used and risotto is soft and creamy, about 22 minutes.
4. Remove from heat; stir in squash and sage, and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool completely.
5. Place flour, eggs, and panko on separate plates. Using a tablespoon, scoop up a ball of cooled risotto, and nestle 1/2 teaspoon goat cheese in the middle. Roll in flour, dip in egg, and roll in panko; set on a tray. Repeat for remaining risotto. Heat 3 inches of canola oil to about 360 degrees in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan. Fry arancini in batches, turning every minute, until brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate.
6. To serve, drizzle arancini with warm honey, or serve honey as a dipping sauce.