Arancini d’avena (aka Oat Arancini): golden-fried balls of savory oat risotto with a molten cheese center. Learning Italian has never been so delicious.
Originally from Sicily and traditionally made with rice, arancini are a popular Italian street food dating back to the 10th century. They are often made from leftover risotto; however, we have no idea what that is. Leftover risotto? It’s a concept that we can barely wrap our heads around.
Our arancini are, of course, made with oats. They do take a little extra-effort, and a bit of pre-planning, but are so very worth it.
If you can, prepare your risotto the day before and let it chill overnight in the fridge. We have found that one of the secrets to forming perfect arancini is well-chilled, firm risotto. The beautiful thing about making arancini with an oat risotto is that oats just seem to have that extra sticking power – especially when chilled, which makes forming arancini a breeze. Warmed up again, the risotto transforms back to its original creaminess.
To form the arancini, a scoop of risotto is rolled in the palm of the hand to form a ball and a cube of cheese is tucked into the center. To make the process a little easier, form the risotto balls with clean, wet hands.
When the balls are all formed, the next step is to bread them. We like to bread our arancini in three steps to ensure success – a dusting of flour, a quick dip in beaten egg, then a roll in seasoned breadcrumbs. We could have breaded our arancini in oats, but we were trying to maintain a tiny bit of authenticity. Arancini are known for their smooth, golden exterior, and the name comes from the Italian for “little orange.”
We deep fried our arancini for a more even fry, but you can also shallow fry them. Just be sure to keep them rolling in the pan to avoid flat arancini.
Arancini are best served warm, to get the full effect of that gooey cheese center, but are still absolutely delicious at room temperature.
As for how to serve them, well, you have several options. We’ve served ours with marinara sauce as a plated appetizer, we’ve passed them around as a snack at cocktail hour, we’ve packed them in lunches, and on more than one occasion, an Oats Enthusiast has been spotted leaving the building with an arancini in one hand and waving “ciao” with the other.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (15 ml)
- 1 shallots minced
- 2 cloves garlic small, minced
- 1 cup steel cut oats (250 ml)
- 1 Tbsp butter (15 ml)
- 1/2 cup white wine dry (125 ml)
- 5 cups chicken stock low-salt (1250 ml)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (125 ml)
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley finely chopped (75 ml)
- pinch black pepper
- salt to taste
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 cup bread crumbs Italian-seasoned (250 ml)
- 1/2 cup flour (125 ml)
- 2 oz mozzarella cheese (65g)
- canola oil for deep frying
- marinara sauce (jarred or homemade) for serving, optional
- Bring stock to a simmer and keep on medium-low heat while you prepare rice mixture.
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté shallot until softened. Add garlic, butter and steel cut oats and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add wine and cook until completely evaporated.
- Stir in ladleful of hot stock and simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding stock, ladleful at a time, cooking until liquid is nearly absorbed before adding more. The oats should be cooked in about 25 minutes – they will be al dente and creamy.
- Remove from heat and stir in pepper, cheese and parsley. Taste and season with salt if needed.
- IMPORTANT: Cool completely before going on to next step.
- Cut mozzarella into 1/2” (12mm) cubes.
- Using an ice cream scoop or a soup spoon, scoop a small amount (about 2 Tbsp) of the oat mixture into the palm of your hand. Place a cube of mozzarella in the center and form the ball around it, encasing it completely.
- Assemble your breading station: place flour in one bowl, egg in another, and breadcrumbs in a third.
- Roll each risotto ball in flour, then egg, then breadcrumb mixture, tapping off excess. Continue until you have used all of the cooked oat mixture.
Heat oil in deep fryer, or large heavy saucepan, to 350° F (175° C) degrees.
Fry the arancini in batches of 4 until golden brown (about 5 minutes.)
Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
Serve hot with warmed marinara sauce for dipping, if you like.