Risotto-Sausage Arancini with Arrabbiata Sauce

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  36 rice balls
Prep Time:  1 hour 30 minutes Chilling Time:  45 minutes Cook Time:  3 hours

Risotto-Sausage Arancini with Arrabbiata Sauce

This recipes shows off how blending ingredients that may at first seem like odd bedfellows (I mean, a creamy wine-enriched risotto from Northern Italy and “angry” sugo all'arrabbiata from Rome? come on!) really can play well together, with a little work.
Please, please, please, don’t shy away from it because of the long list of ingredients. This recipe is meant to be made in parts and can be done over a few days with only last-minute frying.
It’s also very versatile recipe. If you don’t want to use sausage, try shredded boneless beef ribs that have been cooked low and slow. Try duck confit. Try smoked turkey legs. Try a well-herbed mushroom duxelles. Improvise and have fun.

Ingredients

Arrabbiata Dipping Sauce:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 shallots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

2 tablespoons tomato paste, San Marzano preferred

2 cups grated or chopped San Marzano tomatoes 

5 cups Brown Veal Stock or best-quality low-sodium store-bought beef broth

½ cup  full-bodied Sicilian or other Italian red wine, like a Nero d’avola, Frappato or a blend

5 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

¼ bunch fresh basil (about 25 leaves), cut in chiffonade (see Kitchen Tips)

Leaves of 2 sprigs fresh thyme, minced (see Kitchen Tips)

1 teaspoon anchovy paste or 3 anchovy fillets, drained and finely minced

2 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and finely minced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Risotto:

5 cups Brown Veal Stock or best-quality low-sodium store-bought beef broth

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 shallots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

6 cloves garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

1½ cups arborio rice 

1 cup Italian white wine, Sicilian preferred, like Grecanico, Inzolia, Catarratto or a blend

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1½ teaspoons freshly ground white pepper

 

Filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ pound (fennel-based) Italian sausage, sweet or hot

 

Crust:

1 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

2 to 4 dried bay leaves, finely ground (see Kitchen Tips)

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups panko crumbs

5 cups olive oil, or olive oil and canola oil mix, for frying

Instructions

  1. Start the sauce: In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the shallot and cook for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato paste, stir well, and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, stock, wine, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, thyme,  anchovies, capers, and black pepper and stir well. Cover, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours.
  2. While the sauce is cooking, make the risotto: In a medium saucepan, heat the stock over medium heat until it simmers lightly. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a deep, medium-sized skillet, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 10 seconds, until just fragrant. Add the rice, stir to coat, and add the white wine. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the salt and pepper.
  4. Add the stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed before adding the next ½ cup. It will take about 25 to 30 minutes for all of the stock to be added and incorporated. The rice will be creamy, and the grains should remain slightly al dente. (Yes, it will take a while. Be patient. Stirring and doing this slowly allows the rice to release its natural starches, which makes the dish creamy without using any cream—and makes the rice come to life!)
  5. Remove the pan from the heat, spread the risotto mixture onto one of the prepared baking sheets, and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes, until chilled.
  6. Make the arancini filling: Remove the sausage from its casings. Line a large platter with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat until it shimmers, add the sausage and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. Transfer the sausage to the prepared platter and drain well. Set aside.
  7. Set up a breading station: Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and ground bay leaves in a bowl. In another, beat the egg lightly. Pour the panko into a third bowl. Line them up side by side, in that order, next to the other baking sheet.
  8. Scoop about 1½ tablespoons of the chilled risotto and form into a ball about the size of a ping pong ball. Using your thumb, create a deep indentation in the rice ball, while still holding the ball firmly in your hand. Place a  piece of sausage in the middle and close your hand around it, squeezing it back into a ball. Roll the ball in the flour gently to coat, then place it into the egg and turn to coat. Place it into the panko and turn to coat. Finally, place on the baking sheet and repeat the process until all the arancini are breaded. You will have 36.
  9. When the sauce is done, remove and discard any large pieces of herbs and, with an immersion blender process until completely smooth (see Kitchen Tips). This sauce can be done up to one day before, but it will be hotter the longer it sits.
  10. When you are ready to fry the arancini: Line a large platter with paper towels and position it near the stovetop. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil registers 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Fry the arancini in batches, about 6 at a time, for about 4 minutes, until they are evenly browned. Using a slotted spoon, turn them halfway through the cooking process to evenly brown. Transfer to the prepared platter and drain briefly on the paper towels. Serve immediately with sauce on the side.

Kitchen Tips

  1. To grind bay leaves, use a spice grinder, small food processor or coffee grinder dedicated to spices and grind until powdery. Make sure they are thoroughly ground; don’t leave any pointy bits. Finely grinding just a few bay leaves can be a challenge for some grinders, so I often make a bunch and store it in a covered, glass spice jar. You can also grind them with a mortar and pestle or a stone molcajete (the volcanic, scratchy rock works very well) if you are a DIY fan.
  2. Chiffonade simply means that leafy greens or herbs are cut into thin strips. To make a chiffonade of basil, stack the leaves on top of one another on a work surface. Roll tightly from stem to tip and then cut the roll crosswise in ⅛-inch slices with a sharp knife. Unroll and you will have lovely, thin slivers. of basil.
  3. To remove the leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme, hold the sprig (or a few) at the top with one hand, and with the other hand, grasp the stem with your thumb and forefinger and gently slide your fingers down the stem. The leaves will be pushed against the direction they grow in, and will come off easily. You can process the sauce in the bowl of a food processor, but if you choose this route be very careful, because the hot liquid might spurt).

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