There’s nothing I love more than an Aperitivo! I’m patiently waiting until I get over to Italy (T-6 months until we head over for the summer if all goes according to plan) but until then, I’ll be here re-creating some of my favorite bites like this Parmesan Arancini.
Until then… we’re doing it up at home!! Our resident cookbook club editor who resides in Rome and my dear friend Kristina Gill schooled me in all things Aperitivo for the winter months and I’m pretty sure she would be proud of this spread. We’ve got meats, cheeses, olives, salty potato chips, rosemary flavored almonds and Arancini! It’s picture perfect, pretty much effortless and exactly what I want to eat these days leading up to the holiday!
Arancini, for those of you who haven’t had it or heard of it, is a fried rice ball that’s traditionally stuffed with meats or cheese. It’s truly a heavenly bite and something that I want on repeat these chilly winter months. Pair it with a Peroni, an Aperol spritz or a negroni and you’re basically living your best Italian life! Below you’ll find the recipe for making these from scratch but if you want to simplify, you could make any number of the risotto recipes here on WGC and then refrigerate the leftovers over night and use that to assemble the following day (two birds, one stone!)
A few other risotto options if you want to get jazzy:
- Tomato Risotto
- Cacio e Pepe Risotto
- Carrot Risotto – the least traditional of the three, but would be delish!
And if you’re looking to re-create this spread… here are a few tips and tricks:
- If you’re going for an Italian Aperitivo moment – you need cheese! Fontina, Taleggio, Scamorza and Gorgonzola are all at the top of my lists! Throw out some fresh honeycomb to really up the cheese ante.
- If you’re serving cheese, duh, you absolutely need some salty meats to go alongside. Prosciutto is one of the most classic snacks for Aperitivo. But I’ll also add Salame Calabrese, a spicy salame that usually has paprika and cayenne pepper notes, a Salame Napoli, a salame enriched with Sangiovese wine and a hint of fennel, and some thinly sliced Soppressata!
- Outside of the meats and cheeses, you need some easy snacks like roasted almonds tossed with rosemary, some salted potato chips, and of course Castelvetrano olives!! Voila!! Easy peasy
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1 small yellow onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup mascarpone
- 1 lemon juiced and zested
- kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 3 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 6 cups canola oil for frying
- 1 15-ounce jar marinara sauce
- Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the Arborio rice to the skillet and toast for 60 seconds, stirring frequently so that each granule is coated.
- Add the white wine and stir until all the wine has been absorbed. Start to add the chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until absorbed. Continuing adding 1/2 cup at at time. After the final addition, let cook for about 5 minutes more, then stir in Parmesan, mascarpone cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread risotto in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and wrap with plastic. Transfer to the fridge for 1-2 hours until chilled.
- Line another baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out ¼ cup of risotto and form into a patty about 2½" in diameter. Place a piece of mozzarella in the center of the patty. Carefully shape risotto around the cheese, then roll into a 2" ball. Place on a prepared baking sheet and repeat until you’re out of risotto and cheese. Transfer the baking sheet into the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Place the panko in a shallow bowl. Place the flour in another shallow bowl, seasoned with salt and pepper. Place the beaten eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, roll the balls in flour, then with egg, then panko. Transfer back onto the parchment paper.
- Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until the thermometer registers 350°. Carefully lower 5-6 of the risotto balls into oil with a slotted spoon and fry until deeply golden brown, 6–8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Transfer the balls to a paper towel lined plate to drain; season with salt. Repeat with remaining rice balls. Serve warm with marinara or pesto on the side.