Arancini aka risotto balls are the ultimate, melt-in-your-mouth flavour bombs. They make wonderful appetizers as well as wholesome meals and they're the best way to make use of leftover risotto. This recipe is by no means the traditional Sicilian way to make them but it's my lighter, summery and dietary restriction friendly take on the classic. What makes this recipe special to me is that it can be made vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free just by making simple adjustments.
The risotto base I'm using here is the "Roasted Artichoke & Spring Pea Risotto" which is one of my favourite risotto recipes I published a while ago. It's creamy in consistency yet bright in flavour, combining lemon, dill, spring peas, white wine and roasted artichokes. So you can use my recipe, tweak it as you wish or use your own risotto recipe! If you decide to use mine, I invite you to click here to get the recipe before you come back to this one for the arancini.
If you're a vegetarian and would like to give this recipe a try, I recommend placing a little piece of mozzarella in the middle of each ball which will create a gooey, cheesy core. You can also add some parmesan to the breadcrumb mix to give it that extra punch! For the aioli, simply switch to regular mayonnaise or aioli and follow the recipe.
How do you make vegan garlic aioli?
I admit this is the step where I got lazy and used the store-bought stuff instead of making it from scratch. The one I used is the Garlic Vayonaise from Vantastic Foods, a German brand I've came across at my local vegan market. Vegan mayonnaise or "vegannaise" is usually easy to find if you're living in urban areas but for those who don't have access to it, you can click here to check out the recipe from "The Simple Veganista". She uses cashews to make a creamy aioli that you can put together using a blender in just under 5 minutes. Frankly, in the end, I found the store bought stuff a bit too oily for my taste so I think I will try making my own next time!
How can you serve arancini?
There are many ways to eat and serve these delicious rice balls. The most common way is to serve them as appetizers accompanied by a simple marinara sauce as a dip. Here, instead of marinara sauce I chose truffle-garlic aioli because of the way it compliments my risotto recipe's base flavours. They can also be eaten as snacks or side dishes, served with a lemon wedge. However, my all time favourite way to have these is by turning them into a full, wholesome meal, serving the arancini over a tomato, cucumber, olive and arugula salad with a simple balsamic dressing. For this, I was inspired by a little shop I came across in London called Arancini Brothers who make arancini salad bowls filled with fresh greens and veggies and I truly loved their concept.
Tips and Tricks:
If you have time, I recommend making the risotto the night before, storing it in the fridge overnight and making the arancini the next day. The rice will be easier to shape. If you don't have the time, make sure the risotto cools completely before you start shaping and coating them.
You can shape them to be smaller and more bite sized if you're making them for a party as finger food or big enough to fit your palm - the way I did here- if you're serving them as an appetizer or main.
If you're used to making breaded foods you probably know this one but if you're not familiar with the process, I always recommend using one "wet" and one "dry" hand throughout. This means you'll use one hand to dip the balls in almond milk and the other hand for the flour and breading.
If you're making the gluten-free version, you can use gluten-free breadcrumbs or make your own by simply pulsing some stale gluten-free bread in a food processor. If you don't have access to any of these, you can simply leave the breadcrumbs out. The toasted almond bits and the almond flour will still give you a nice coating and crunch.
Make sure you don't forget to drizzle the arancini generously with olive oil before you bake them. Since they're not fried, the breading will get very dry after baking without the added oil.
I chose to oven bake them for a healthier, lighter summertime alternative but you can definitely fry them if you feel like it!
The arancini will keep up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container and can be easily reheated in the oven or on a pan.
MAKES: 12-15 arancini
PREP TIME: 35 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 1H
For the toasted almond crust:
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
1 cup of wheat or almond flour (GF)
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 cup of breadcrumbs
For the aioli:
250 grams or about 1 cup of vegannaise or any vegan mayonnaise/aioli
1 ½ tsp of truffle oil
2 ½ tsp of lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Season to taste
For the toasted almond crust:
1. Toast the almonds in the oven or in a pan until fragrant and golden brown, let them cool and chop or crush them into very small pieces.
2. Mix together the breadcrumbs and crushed toasted almonds, a little salt and pepper in a bowl, set aside.
3. Preheat your oven to 190°C or 374°F.
4. Shape the risotto into balls, making sure to squeeze them very tightly, this will help the rice balls hold their shape better.
5. Put your flour, almond milk and breadcrumb mixture in 3 different bowls. First dip the balls in flour, tap to remove excess flour, dip them in almond milk and lastly in the breadcrumbs.
6. Place them on a large plate or a flat surface, let them rest for about 5 minutes and repeat the process.
7. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle them with a generous amount of olive oil.
8. Bake until golden brown for about 20-25 minutes.
For the aioli:
1. Mix lemon juice, truffle oil and vegan aioli together.