With the table set, it was time to get busy in the kitchen preparing the Sicilian dinner.
Without question, one of my favorite foods in Sicily was arancini which I swore not to make noting that it was rather labor intensive. No way though could I pass on it knowing that it possibly would be a new taste treat, so I bit the bullet and got started.
Arancini is basically a risotto ball so the first step is making your favorite risotto being sure not to let it get too soft and mushy. Al dente is the buzz word. When it has cooled enough to handle, roll the risotto into golf ball sized shapes with a small mozzarella ball in the middle. Dip the balls in beaten egg whites and roll them in a mixture of equal parts flour and bread crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper and chopped basil.
Once your balls are prepared,
fry then in olive or canola oil over medium high heat until browned on all sides. A deep fryer would likely be a little more efficient than a skillet. I must tell you this part can be a little tricky as the balls tend to fall apart if they are handled too much so do use care when moving them around.
Remove the balls from the oil and drain them well on paper towels. Making the arancini is more time consuming than difficult I learned, but the good thing is it can be made a day ahead and reheated in the oven or warming drawer. That takes a lot of the pain out of preparing the rest of the meal.
At serving time, put a heaping portion of meat sauce in a bowl and top with 2-3 arancini. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and coarsely chopped basil or Italian parsley. Then sit back and enjoy the moans of pleasure that will come from your table. That makes the effort all worthwhile!
While you may have a favorite meat sauce, I can’t resist sharing Chef Michael’s recipe for Sicilian meat sauce with its flavorful blend of ingredients.
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. each finely chopped onion, carrot and celery
1 lb. ground pork or Italian sausage
1/2 c. red wine
6 oz. tomato paste
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
3 c. beef broth
1 T. fennel seeds, toasted and ground fine
2 cloves minced garlic
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the pork or sausage, stir until broken up and cook until browned.
Pour in the wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add diced tomatoes, beef broth, seasonings and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
Remove the bay leaf and season to taste.
As you might guess, this sauce is great with most any pasta. Double the recipe, freeze the extra and you have sauce ready for another time. Not a bad idea!