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Palermo Food Blog: Sicilian Arancine

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Sicily is not only famous for its stunning landscapes, rich history, and culture, but also for its mouth-watering cuisine. One of the most iconic dishes of Sicilian cuisine is arancine (or arancini in Catania area). Arancine are deep-fried rice balls filled with various ingredients, such as ragù (meat sauce), cheese, ham, and saffron. They are a popular street food snack, appetizer, or even a main course, and they can be found all over the island. In this article, we will take a closer look at the history and recipe of this delicious and traditional dish.

Read also: Palermo Food Blog: Pane Panelle e Crocchè

Quick Sicily Travel Guide

Sicily Accommodation: San Domenico Palace and Grand Hotel Timeo for luxury accommodation in Taormina, and Casa Nostra Boutique Hotel or Palazzo Natoli Boutique Hotel for intimate vibes in Palermo. Dome or B&B Oriental Palace in Catania. Room Of Andrea Hotel or Gaura Apartments in Trapani. Le Tre Campane Ortigia or Palazzo Alfeo Aparthotel in Syracuse. Principe Di Salina Boutique Hotel or Il Gabbiano Relais in Stromboli on the Aeolian Islands.

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History of arancine

The history of arancine is quite fascinating and reflects the influence of different cultures that have occupied the island over the centuries. The word “arancine” comes from the Sicilian word “arancina” which means “little orange.” The name is due to the shape and color of the rice ball, which resembles an orange. However, the origins of the dish are not entirely clear, and there are different theories about its creation.

One theory suggests that arancine were invented in the 10th century by the Arabs, who ruled Sicily at that time. The Arabs brought with them a recipe for a dish called “narjīl” or “nāranj,” which consisted of rice, saffron, and various fillings, such as meat or vegetables. The dish was then adapted by the Sicilians, who made it their own by adding different ingredients and shaping it into a ball.

Another theory is that arancine were created in the 13th century by the Normans, who ruled Sicily after the Arabs. The Normans were known for their love of fried food, and they might have been the first to deep-fry the rice balls, giving them their characteristic crispy outer layer.

Regardless of their origins, arancine have become an integral part of Sicilian cuisine and a symbol of the island’s culinary tradition.

How to prepare arancine

Duration: 1h 45 min

Difficulty: Intermediate

Ingredients

For 12 arancine:

For the preparation of the rice:

 - 1 sachet (2 gr) of saffron
 - 30 gr of butter
 - 500 gr of Arborio or Carnaroli rice
 - 1.2 liter of water
 - 100 gr of grated Parmesan cheese

For the preparation of meat sauce filling:

 - a little bit of salt
 - 1/2 onion
 - 25 gr of butter
 - 100 gr of minced pork 
 - extra virgin olive oil 
 - 200 ml of tomato sauce
 - 80 gr of peas
 - 60 gr of cheese (caciocavallo would be the best)
 - 50 ml of red wine

Preparation

Preparation of arancine:

  • Start by boiling the rice in 1.2 liters of boiling salted water, so that, after cooking, the water has been completely absorbed (this will allow the starch to remain completely in the pot and you will get a very dry and compact rice).
  • Cook for about 15 minutes, then dissolve the saffron in very little hot water and add it to the cooked rice .
  • Also add the butter cut into small pieces.
  • Add the grated cheese, mix well to mix everything together.
  • Pour and level the rice on a large, low tray and cover it with plastic wrap to let it cool completely, the plastic wrap will prevent the surface of the rice from drying out. Let the rice rest for a couple of hours out of the refrigerator.
  • In the meantime, dedicate yourself to the ragù filling: peel and finely slice the onion.
  • Stew the chopped onion in a pan with 2 tablespoons of oil and the butter, then add the minced meat.
  • Brown it over high heat, then add the wine and let it evaporate.
  • At this point add the tomato puree, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook over low heat covered for at least 20 minutes.
  • Halfway through cooking, add the peas (if necessary you can add very little hot water because the sauce must be well thickened and not liquid).
  • While the peas are cooking, cut the caciocavallo, the cooked ham and the mozzarella into cubes. You will now have all the fillings ready.
  • Once the rice has cooled completely (it will take at least a couple of hours), you can form the arancine, to help you form them, keep a bowl full of water nearby so you can moisten your hands.
  • Take a couple of tablespoons of rice at a time (about 120 g of rice), crush the mound in the center of your hand forming a bowl and pour a teaspoon of meat sauce filling inside, add a few cubes of caciocavallo cheese.
  • Then close the base of the arancine with the rice and shape it giving it a rounded shape
  • Now that you have all the arancine ready, prepare the batter: pour the sifted flour, a pinch of salt and the water slowly into a bowl.
  • Mix carefully with a whisk to prevent it from sticking form lumps.
  • Then dip the arancine, one by one, into the batter taking care to cover them entirely and roll them in the breadcrumbs.
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and bring it to a temperature of 170°C, at which point fry one arancina at a time or maximum two, so as not to lower the oil temperature.
  • When they are golden brown you can drain them by placing them on a tray lined with absorbent paper. And now it’s time to taste them!

All the photos in this article were taken by Chiara Magi. Book your travel photoshoot in Palermo here or write us at [email protected].

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Chiara Magi
Chiara Magi
I'm a photographer and filmmaker, and most of all probably the biggest lover of Sicily! I am also the creator of Sicily Insider, sharing the best travel information, tips and advice.

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