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Prep 2 hrs
Cook 1 hr
The arancini (fried rice balls) that are sold in the bars and cafes of Sicily are among my favorite foods. Here is a recipe that is easier for the home cook, and since it is baked and not fried, the fat content may be lower. This recipe has endless variations; I've posted the most complicated version (it's not that hard) which can then be unmolded for a dramatic presentation. But simpler versions abound -- for example, a timbale made in a springform pan and filled simply with ham, peas and a thick bechamel. Chopped spinach or eggplant could be added to the rice. The filling ingredients can be prepared the day before. Just an observation: to make it kid-friendly, keep it simple.
- 4 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs, approximately
- 1⁄2 lb lean ground beef
- 1 1⁄3 cups soft breadcrumbs
- 2 1⁄2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 3 eggs
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 3⁄4 cups spaghetti sauce, divided (marinara or with meat)
- 1 -2 ounce bacon, chopped
- 2 cups shelled peas, fresh or thawed frozen
- 1⁄2 lb Italian sausage, skinned and crumbled
- 2 chicken livers, chopped
- 2 1⁄2 tablespoons dry white wine or 2 1⁄2 tablespoons dry white vermouth
- 6 cups beef stock
- 2 1⁄2 cups short-grain rice, such as Arborio
- 3⁄4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1⁄2 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced or grated
- 1⁄4 lb ham or 1⁄4 lb prosciutto, thinly sliced
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for 30 minutes in warm water, washed, drained and chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons butter, slivered
- Oil a 5-pint casserole dish (such as a Corningware souffle dish) 8-10 inches in diameter and coat lightly with dry breadcrumbs. This will serve as your timbale mold. Put aside.
- For the meatballs, combine the beef, soft breadcrumbs, 2 1/2 tablespoons parmesan, parsley, 1 egg, salt and pepper in a bowl (add a minced clove of garlic, if desired). Mix thoroughly to achieve a medium-soft consistency. Add a second egg if the mixture is too dry.
- Form meatballs the size of a large cherry and fry in 2 tablespoons of oil until lightly brown (alternatively, bake in the oven at 350°F for 15 minutes).
- Simmer 1 1/4 cups of the sauce in a pot, drop in the meatballs, and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside.
- For the pea filling, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan and add the bacon, the peas, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup water. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the sausage meat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the sausage changes color.
- Stir in the chicken livers and the wine. Simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and set aside.
- For the rice mixture and assembly, preheat the oven to 375°F Bring the beef stock and 1/2 cup of the spaghetti sauce to a boil in an ovenproof casserole, stir in the rice, cover and bake for 10 minutes.
- When it comes out of the oven the rice will be underdone and very moist. Stir in 3/4 cup parmesan, 2 well-beaten eggs, and some freshly-ground pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- Spoon 3/4 of the rice mixture into the prepared timbale mold, pressing firmly against the sides and bottom, leaving a hollow in the center.
- Cover the bottom of the hollow with half the mozzarella, then half the ham. Add the pea mixture, then the meatballs with their sauce, the mushrooms (here you could use sauteed cultivated mushrooms; it is more authentically Italian to use dried porcini mushrooms), and finally the remaining mozzarella and ham.
- Cover with the remaining rice, sprinkle the top with dry breadcrumbs and dot with butter.
- Bake in the oven at 375°F for one hour or until a golden crust forms. Remove from oven and let settle for 10 minutes, then unmold on a serving platter. Serve immediately.