For dinner last night, I tried something new, namely the arancini recipe from the Candle 79 Cookbook. In case you’re not familiar with them, arancini are fried rice balls coated in bread crumbs. They reportedly originated in Sicily, and they are generally stuffed with mozarella and accompanied by either a meat or tomato sauce. Obviously, this recipe has been veganized by the talented folks at Candle 79, and since I’ve had good luck with other recipes from their book, I thought I’d give it a shot.
First, I made a batch of Candle’s roasted plum tomato sauce. At this time of year, I opted for canned plum tomatoes, which worked just fine. It’s a simple recipe, involving only the tomatoes, olive oil, onion, basil and salt, but it worked perfectly with the arancini.
The first step in making the arancini themselves is to make the most basic risotto I’ve ever seen. It starts out like a pretty standard risotto: saute some shallots in olive oil, add the Arborio rice until coated, pour in some white wine, then start adding water until the desired tenderness is reached. However, no further seasonings are added during the cooking process. This is some pretty bland rice. I was getting a little worried.
Once it’s cooked, you remove the rice from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of vegan mozzarella (I used Daiya, which the book recommends) and a little parsley. Then it sits and cools for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together another 1/4 cup of Daiya and an equal amount of cooked tempeh bacon. Sounds odd, but just go with it. You will have two bowls of stuff that look like this:
Once the rice has cooled enough to handle, the idea is to form it into balls. I had some trouble at first, as it was both sticky and falling apart. However, I just worked it a little more vigorously, and it cooperated. The next step is to get about a teaspoon of the tempeh mixture into the ball. The book describes the technique thus: “…make an indentation in the center (of the rice ball) that extends halfway into the ball. Fill with … the tempeh mixture, then roll to cover the filling.” My filling process wasn’t as controlled as this sounds, but it did work, for the most part (there were some errant pieces of both Daiya and tempeh bacon here and there, but that didn’t end up being a problem). Final prep step: roll the filled balls in bread crumbs.
Next, you fry the balls in a bit of olive oil, turning them often, until they are golden brown. Serve with the tomato sauce. While my finished product wasn’t as elegant as the photos in the cookbook, they had a lovely, crispy outside texture and a nice, melty interior. They also tasted great! The various flavors really do come together beautifully. It wasn’t bland at all – yay.
This is a messy, fun, tasty recipe, and a great one to tackle with a friend or family member. Have fun with it!