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Arancini al sugo (Rice croquettes with stuffing and sauce)

120 Minutes
Ingredients (4 people)
1 kilo (5 cups) of risotto rice
400 gr (14 oz) of lean pork in a single piece
200 gr (7 oz) of strattu (dense tomato paste)
1 small onion
5 eggs
250 gr (1 and 1/3 cup) of finely ground breadcrumbs
2 sachets of saffron
4 tablespoons of red wine
350 gr (3 and 1/3 cups) of fresh caciocavallo (ragusano) cheese
100 gr (1 cup) of grated aged caciocavallo
extra-virgin olive oil

Brown the thinly sliced onion in two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot, preferably made of earthenware. Add the pork, salt to taste and increase the heat, turning the meat until nicely browned. Bathe with the wine and, still at high heat, allow it to evaporate. Remove the meat, add the strattu (very dense Sicilian tomato paste) and carefully dilute it with warm water. Put the pork back into the sauce and add enough water to nearly cover it. Cover and leave to cook at very low heat for about three hours or until the sauce is very dense (eventually removing the lid towards the end), stirring now and then.
In the meantime, boil the rice in salted water, just enough so it absorbs during cooking. When the rice is al dente and dry, add the saffron and grated cheese, mixing gently. Remove to a pastry board and allow to cool.
Remove the pork and slice it into fillets; chop the caciocavallo cheese; salt and beat the eggs in a small, low-rimmed bowl; sprinkle the ground breadcrumbs on a broad work surface. Pick up some rice in the palm of your hand, press it and put a heaping tablespoon of sauce, a bit of meat, a few bits of cheese and another tablespoon of sauce onto it. Cover with a little more rice and press between your hands as if forming a meatball, but giving it a pyramidal shape. Dredge in the egg and then the breadcrumbs, slightly flattening the base of the pyramid so it can remain upright by itself. Proceed until all the rice is used up.
Fry the croquettes upright in the frying basket in boiling extra-virgin olive oil. Drain them on paper towels (or even paper bags) and eat piping hot.

Did you know?
This meticulous description is an orally handed down home-style recipe. Another old recipe is for a white stuffing, with boiled chicken instead of pork and the rice cooked in chicken broth. In Sicilian cuisine there are various and, usually simpler, versions of arancini or arancine. As for ingredients you will for example often find boiled peas; and then – especially at rotisserie shops – a classic beef ragout is used, easier and faster to prepare. But by now at Sicilian rotisseries, snack bars and bakeries the arancini are stuffed in different ways: with ham and cheese (arancini al burro); with spinach and cheese; with eggplant or artichokes or mushrooms or whatever else the maker’s imagination suggests. As for the shape, the pyramid is not easy to make and frying requires more oil. For this reason as well, many prefer to make balls, a shape that according to many is analogous to oranges, from which comes the name, given a feminine gender (arancine) mostly in the Palermo area. There are no significant variations on the breadcrumb coating, while in shops the croquettes are rarely fried in extra-virgin olive oil; the preference is for less expensive – but certainly less healthy and tasty – seed oils.

Wine pairings

A delicious antipasto that enchants the palate, pair with young reds that balance the intensity with their freshness, like Sherazade and Bell’Assai: the Nero d’Avola and the Frappato are the perfect wines for this traditional Sicilian dish.

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