Sometimes I want a big meal, but then again, sometimes I want appetizers for dinner. In fact, we frequently have "Appetizer Night" or "Party Food Night" at our house. There is usually a vast array of appetizers, always including queso, guacamole, potato skins, crab rangoon, and sometimes including Chex mix and sausage balls.
But one night last week I just wanted to focus on one thing...Arancini con Polpette, which I have named Rice Bombs. I'm sure you're wondering what either of those two things are. Arancini are an Italian creation that consists of risotto (a creamy rice dish made from arborio rice) and usually have cheese and tomato sauce, sometimes peas, etc., that is all rolled into a ball and are deep fried. Now, risotto is a time-consuming process, but not a hard process. If you've ever watched Hell's Kitchen, you'll know that Gordon Ramsay frequently calls his chefs "donkeys" for not getting risotto right. Don't let that scare you. Your family won't call you a donkey (at least I hope they don't). You just have to be patient, continue stirring, and have plenty of chicken stock on hand. It may take longer or shorter than it did for me, but perserverance is the key here.
Here's the kicker: Arancini stuffed with polpette, which is an Italian meatball. But I had to take things a little farther...polpette stuffed with cheese! The polpette usually consists of ground beef or pork, garlic, olive oil, Romano or Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. The cheese I chose to use to stuff them is Mozzarella cheese sticks, just because they are easy to slice and stuff into meatballs.
So hopefully now you are getting the picture of why these are bombs. It's a rice ball stuffed with a meatball stuffed with cheese. Explosive! My family loved these so much, even my 12-year-old son who is very picky. I hope your family enjoys them too!
ARANCINI CON POLPETTE (AKA RICE BOMBS)
FOR THE RISOTTO:
1/2 stick butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C arborio rice
4 C chicken stock
1 C white wine
8 oz Ricotta cheese
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb Italian sausage, removed from casings
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons red chili flake
1/3 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 to 3/4 C bread crumbs
5-7 Mozzarella cheese sticks
FOR THE DREDGE:
2 C flour
2 teaspoons onion powder
Salt & pepper
Peanut oil for frying
Make the risotto first. Bring the chicken stock almost to a boil in a pot and then turn it down to keep it warm. In a wide pot or skillet, melt the butter and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Over medium heat, cook onions until translucent. Add in the rice and stir, browing slightly. Pour in the wine and cook about a minute. Using a ladle, pour one ladle full of stock into the rice. Add in your garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper. Continue stirring the rice until the stock is almost gone, and then add another ladle of stock. Continue this process until the rice is creamy and the rice is no longer hard and to your desired consistency. Refrigerate to cool completely.
For the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the meatball ingredients (except the cheese sticks and olive oil) together by hand. Slice the cheese sticks into about five slices per stick. Grabbing about 1 1/2 tablespoons of meat mixture, form the meatball around a slice of cheese, being sure to seal it and make sure the chesse doesn't show through. Place the meatballs on a sheet pan. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil. Bake the meatballs 25-30 minutes or until browned and done through.
Once the meatballs are done and cool enough to handle, mix the Ricotta and Parmesan cheese into the risotto. Taking about 2 tablespoons of risotto mixture, form the risotto around a meatball, making sure no meatball shows through. You may need a bowl of water to dip your hands in to prevent the rice from sticking to you.
Mix your dredge mixture together (not the oil). Roll the rice balls around in the flour mixture and put them on a sheet pan lined with wax paper. Freeze the balls about 25 minutes to firm them up.
Preheat the peanut oil in a cast iron skillet or other deep skillet. Carefully place a few meatballs in the hot oil and brown on all sides. Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until all the balls are cooked. Garnish them with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese and serve with marinara sauce.